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Maritime Studies201817:124

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It is difficult to imagine the domain of the marine social sciences without mentioning the name of Svein Jentoft, to whom this special issue is a tribute. Svein Jentoft, who has been attached to UiT the Arctic University of Norway for his entire career, has been one of the most productive and influential social scientists in the field of fisheries science of the last 40 years. The list of his publications (accessible via Google Scholar) is impressive, as is the extent to which his work is cited. Few will be able to forget the sight of him loudly and enthusiastically thinking through ideas in a conference, workshop, or seminar setting. Those who have worked with him will remember not only his collaborative, affable attitude, his mentorship, but also his capacity for hard work and his ability to get things done. Among his colleagues in the Norwegian College of Fishery Science at UiT the Arctic University of Norway, he is not only respected as a productive researcher, but also as one of the best supervisors of students and young academics around.

In the past decades, Svein has played a variety of roles for the academic and the policy-making community. First of all, at a practical level, he has repeatedly challenged what he has seen as the flawed assumptions and unwanted side-effects of management prescriptions that have unfolded for capture fisheries in Norway and the world. He has countered the solutions promoted by fisheries economists and biologists, such as ITQs and Marine Protected Areas, and thereby provided much-needed social science perspectives on the problems being addressed. More than that, he has introduced new and important approaches, such as co-management and governance, to the fisheries realm, defending and promoting them ardently and to good effect. Both concepts have now become part of the mainstream fisheries toolkit. Finally, as Ratana Chuenpagdee, one of his closest collaborators during the last decade, describes in the essay that concludes this special issue, he has vigorously defended the rights of groups who he has felt were losing out: small-scale fishers, indigenous peoples, and coastal communities in general. Social justice has thus been a prominent concern in his writings on diverse topics.

As Knut Mikalsen, in another thoughtful essay in this issue on Svein’s career, points out: “While most of [Svein’s] work is empirically grounded, his publications never amount to being ‘just’ descriptive accounts. There is always theory, attempts at linking up with a wider scholarly tradition, applying conceptual frameworks and analytical perspectives by viewing empirical cases and processes as embedded in a wider context.” In fact, Svein’s attempts to imbue fisheries literature with insights from the theoretical traditions of various social sciences, has, in our view, been one of his most noteworthy inputs. He has thereby made clear that fisheries are not necessarily very different from any other societal field, and that processes and events taking place there are also occurring elsewhere. At the same time, he has emphasized to his non-fisheries audience that fisheries are a very good place to study more general societal phenomena.

This special issue, while possessing some characteristics of a liber amoricum or Festschrift, clearly goes beyond that particular format. The contributors were thus requested to write papers on topics that feature prominently in Svein’s work and “expand to include the contemporary academic debate, thereby making a contribution to future scholarship.” The set of papers, which covers many—but certainly not all—of the issues that Svein has concentrated on, thereby aims to move forward not only their academic discussions, but also their practical applications.

The special issue opens with the essay by Knut Mikalsen. This essay traces Svein Jentoft’s intellectual development process and the contribution he has made to the field since the 1970s. Written by a close colleague and friend who has followed much of Svein’s career, it makes no pretense of being comprehensive, rather drawing out a number of important threads in his thinking. The first academic paper, by Fikret Berkes and Prateep Nayak, is entitled ‘Role of communities in fisheries management: “One would first need to imagine it”’, takes the substantial effort Svein has put into understanding the value of ‘community’—positioned between fishing individuals, companies, and the sector as a whole—as a point of departure. In fact, Svein’s studies of communities as employment systems are still standard references in research on fisheries recruitment. Most notably, Berkes and Nayak investigate his proposition that not only do fishing communities require viable fish stocks, but ‘viable fish stocks actually require viable fishing communities’. By highlighting crucial aspects of human community—such as the values they imbue, the power issues that crosscut community dealings, and the vulnerabilities they suffer—the authors endorse Svein’s prescription that “the possibility of community failure requires that managers look into and care for the community, not just the fish stock.”

The second and third papers take us to the field of indigenous peoples and the political processes involved in protecting their access to coastal and marine resources. Johnsen and Søreng investigate the struggle for fishing rights for the Sami people in Norway from an institutionalist perspective. Drawing both on Svein’s studies of institutions and his work on Sami fisheries, these authors discuss options to secure local and indigenous fishing rights in Norway. Gonzalez directs attention to the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua, who also engage in small-scale fishing for a livelihood. While Nicaragua is known for its progressive legislation regarding the rights of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples, facts on the ground tell another story. Gonzalez investigates the governability of indigenous fisheries, pointing out how they are threatened by the uncontrolled immigration of campesino settlers and illegal, industrial fishing activities, plus a variety of institutional factors.

The fourth paper shifts to another topic that has attracted Svein’s interest, namely, the role of legal pluralism and governance. While governance—and particularly the possibilities afforded by the stream called interactive governance—has constituted one of Svein’s preoccupations since the late 1990s, legal pluralism entered his field of vision only since 2005. The main question here has been the effects of legal pluralism on governance, and the ways in which conditions of legal pluralism can be built upon. The paper, authored by Maarten Bavinck, expands the perspective by investigating the role of legal pluralism in the governance of seafood value chains, with a particular focus on the chains found in South India.

Andrew Song, Hekia Bodwich, and Joeri Scholtens, in a paper entitled ‘Why marginality persists in a governable fishery – the case of New Zealand’, connect to Svein’s work on governability as well as his interest in social justice. Infusing interactive governance with ideas from political ecology, they ask the intriguing question whether inequality and social exclusion, which permeate the fisheries the world over, are not necessarily an indication of ungovernability but might also occur in a highly governable fisheries system. Making use of research data from the New Zealand Maori fisheries, which are characterized not only by social-ecological stability but also by high levels of marginalization, they point out the incongruity that might be said to exist, particularly if one defines governability in terms of the ‘quality’ of governance.

The last academic paper, by Peter Arbo and co-authors, entitled ‘The transformation of the oceans and the future of marine social science’, takes as starting point the fact that fisheries are no longer one of the only mainstays of the marine economy, now having to share attention with other activities such as mineral exploitation, tourism, and energy production. This requires a reorientation of the social sciences, which are well-positioned to reflect “on the lessons learned from decades of engagement with fisheries and fisheries policy to understand and intervene in processes and practices of modernization, science-based management, and privatization of rights.”

The special issue is concluded with the essay by Ratana Chuenpagdee about Svein Jentoft’s engagement with small-scale fisheries that has taken place in the context of the Canadian-funded Too Big to Ignore: Global Partnership for Research on Small-scale Fisheries (TBTI) project. Small-scale fisheries have suffered from mis-management, a situation that may change with the implementation of FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines for Sustaining Small-Scale Fisheries. Svein Jentoft participated in the process of developing the Guidelines as a member of the Norwegian delegation to FAO, bringing perspectives from TBTI into the policy discussion.

In concluding this introduction to the special issue hosted by Maritime Studies (MAST), we would like to point out that Svein Jentoft has played an important role in re-establishing MAST as an interdisciplinary, social science journal devoted to ‘people and the sea’. He has been the editor-in-chief of MAST since 2009 but contributed to the journal since its inception in 1988. Like Svein Jentoft, the journal has been characterized by academic openness and generosity. Hence, to initiate a special issue of MAST in his honor was an obvious choice. We look forward to his continued involvement and inspiration in future.

Authors’ Affiliations

University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
The Arctic University of Norway, Tromso, Norway


© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018