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Small-scale fishing is an important source of food and livelihoods for millions of rural poor people in South-East Asia. Yet fisheries management has tended to diminish access of the rural poor to fishing grounds in favour of commercial operations. This paper describes how civil society action was instrumental in creating change in national fisheries policies in the Philippines. A system of community-based coastal resource management was adopted, with the aim of ensuring better access and influence over resource management for poor fishing communities. Although reported impacts have been modest, the changes have supported some regrowth in the small-scale fishing industry, as well as other gains, and the approach is being adopted in other countries. These gains are threatened by intense competition for fishing access, the development of export-oriented aquaculture industries, and WTO support for fisheries liberalisation. Sustained advocacy for the protection of small-scale fisher livelihoods is required at national and global levels.

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