The expansion of industrial fishing via technological advancements and heavy subsidies in the Global North has been a significant factor leading to the current global fishery crisis. The growth of the industrial fleet led to an initial increase in global catches from the 1950s to the 1990s; yet, today, several marine fish stocks are harvested at unsustainable rates, and catches are stagnating. As a result, industrial fishers increase investments and fishing effort, reaching farther and deeper, while small-scale fishers face the threat of disappearance as both their catches and livelihoods worsen. The emergent international emphasis on Blue Growth is likely to put further pressure on marine capture fisheries. This paper explores how the growth imperative in the seas has manifested itself in Turkey since the 1970s and how industrial and small-scale fishers responded to this growth spiral in the seas. Based on participant observation methods and in-depth interviews, this paper problematizes the expanding boundaries of industrial fishers and examines the reactions of small-scale fishing cooperatives in Istanbul, in particular their proposed alternative economic model, as a response to the growth imperative. Overall, the paper demonstrates that the crisis that small-scale fishers are facing not only presents economic and ecological difficulties, but also represents an existential threat to the identity and traditional ways of life as a fisher. The strategies adopted by small-scale fishers in response to this crisis in Turkey, especially in Istanbul, are politicizing fishers as they open up new spaces, collaborations, and demands for environmental, social, and economic justice. However, their efforts constitute an ongoing process prone to numerous tensions and contradictions. This paper concludes that challenging the growth paradigm in fisheries via the Blue Degrowth framework can be useful for analyzing emerging alternative imaginaries to the growth-driven capitalist economic system among small-scale fishers.
Sustainability Science, vol. 15, 2020