February 7, 2024

Duke Scholars Help Develop New U.N. Course to Measure Contributions of Small-Scale Fisheries

Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

A new e-learning course is supporting countries’ efforts to collect data on the impact of small-scale fisheries using an approach developed by experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Duke University and WorldFish.

The free course from FAO, as well as a 120-page companion document, outlines the research methods used to develop case studies for 58 countries in the Illuminating Hidden Harvests report released last March. Years in the making, the global study details the multifaceted contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development, including as a major source of food, nutrition and income for communities around the world.

Scholars and students from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, Marine Lab and Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability were part of an interdisciplinary group of more than 800 experts who contributed to Illuminating Hidden Harvests. Part of the Duke contingent helped design and review the e-learning course, including faculty members John Virdin and Xavier Basurto; postdoc Alba Aguion Tarrio; and recent alumni Claudia Deeg (MEM’23), Maggie Chory (MEM’19) and Rachel Cohn (T’19).

“Duke’s partnership with FAO enables us to conduct actionable research that can help support hundreds of millions whose livelihoods depend on small-scale fisheries,” said Virdin, director of the Ocean Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability and assistant professor of the practice at the Nicholas School of the Environment. “The e-learning course continues the work of the Illuminating Hidden Harvests study to further shed light on the outsized role of small-scale fisheries. Course participants will learn to collect data that can be used to support sound policymaking and empower fishing communities.”

The course is targeted at people who collect, analyze and report data for the fishery sector. The intended audience includes policymakers; national fisheries administration officials; small-scale fishing community organizations; and representatives of nongovernmental organizations, regional organizations, academia and the donor community.

Available on FAO’s website since late January, the course is two hours long. Following completion, participants can take a test to earn digital certification from the U.N. agency.

The course and companion document are the latest products of a broader partnership between FAO and Duke to build a scientific evidence base for policymakers to develop strategies and solutions to support small-scale fisheries. Formalized through a memorandum of understanding in 2020, the partnership capitalizes on the strengths of both organizations—FAO benefits from research methods developed at Duke, while students apply what they are learning to real-world projects that have a direct global impact on food security.

Featured Experts