Just Sustainability Transitions in the Blue Economy: Towards Blue Justice in Small-Scale Artisanal Fisheries in the Pacific of Costa Rica
Abstract: The blue economy emerged as sustainable, inclusive and equitable alternative to traditional oceans economy. However, the current paradigm of oceans as development spaces has led to an acceleration of competing uses of marine resources causing ecosystem deterioration and human rights abuses that disproportionately affect vulnerable small-scale fisheries. Blue justice movements seek to reconcile environmental and social justice objectives in the transition to a sustainable and equitable blue economy. This thesis develops a case study based on fieldwork in small-scale artisanal fisheries (SSAF) in the Pacific of Costa Rica that aims to identify the main challenges and enablers of social justice in these communities. Social justice issues are analysed through a multi-dimensional framework and presented based on environmental, economic, and social challenges. This research focuses on the role of agency which is realised through participation in governance models. This study finds different narratives with respect to the role of SSAF in the just blue transition in Costa Rica. There are several initiatives that have potential to strengthen the social tissue of SSAF communities. (1) Co-management models of responsible fisheries that leverage SSAF local knowledge and direct commercialisation that improves the distribution of economic benefits. However, lack of institutional recognition reduces the ability of SSAF to carry out these effectively. (2) The development of alternative economic activities reduces dependency on fisheries and diversifies sources of livelihood to build community resilience. (3) Similarly, different community-led initiatives demonstrate SSAF’s broader involvement in integrated local development. Several external actors were identified for their contributions, but often lack of collaboration and coordination. The findings of this research stress the complexity and interrelatedness of blue justice challenges in SSAF that need to be addressed holistically. Despite context-specificity of this work, insights on recurrent challenges and best practices may be adapted to other contexts.
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