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The ten steps to responsible Inland fisheries in practice: Reflections from diverse regional case studies around the globe

July 15, 2021

Inland fisheries make substantial contributions to food security and livelihoods locally, regionally, and globally but their conservation and management have been largely overlooked by policy makers. In an effort to remedy this limited recognition, a cross-sectoral community of scientists, practitioners, and policy makers from around the world convened a high-level meeting in 2015 at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations headquarters in Rome, Italy to develop recommendations for sustainable inland fisheries management. This meeting resulted in the production of the Rome Declaration, outlining ten key steps needed to achieve responsible inland fisheries. When the Ten Steps were conceived, they were framed in a global context because inland fisheries around the world face similar challenges, and it was hoped that these large-scale and ambitious steps would draw the attention of regional or international bodies for greater investment in their proper management. Most inland fisheries, however, are managed at a local (often community, watershed, or waterbody) scale with the “on-the-ground” practitioners, managers, assessment biologists, and stewardship officers responsible for achieving the promise of the Ten Steps. Here, we reflect on the relevance of the Ten Steps to practitioners using six regional case studies from around the globe (North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa) to identify the extent to which existing efforts align with the Ten Steps and where there are opportunities to do more. Learning what is effective from local/regional actions should better inform a more global “action plan” and provide tangible guidance for implementation recognizing that global guidance needs to be informed by and acted upon by local practitioners. We conclude by considering the common challenges, synergies, and other emergent properties that arise from these case studies, and use these as a path forward to advancing responsible management of inland fisheries through the Rome Declaration. Of particular importance is the need to balance the high-level aspirational goals of the Ten Steps with the local cultural, socio-economic, and institutional realities that ultimately influence how humans interact with fisheries resources and aquatic ecosystems. This assessment provides valuable information on how to refine and implement the Ten Steps recognizing that success will require coordinated efforts among on-the-ground practitioners, scientists, stakeholders, rightsholders and international decision makers.