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Fishing in the city for food – the case of Stockholm

Like many large cities, Stockholm is situated at the seashore. Right in the city center, the fresh water meets the brackish waters from the Baltic Sea. Here salmon, bream, trout, zander, perch, pike, smelt, herring, and roach swim. Year-round you find fishers trying their luck throughout the city .

Early on in this project on urban fishing in Stockholm, we learnt that many Stockholm fishers eat the fish they catch. This surprised us, as we had assumed that fishers primarily released the fish back into the water, so called Catch & Release fishing. Digging further, we found that ‘urban fishing for food’ is happening all over Europe.

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While fishing in the city for food is not a new topic of research, there are many questions still left unexplored.

Why dive into research on urban fishing for food?

Urban fishing for food offers many interesting entry points for research. We want to keep on exploring the phenomena of urban fishing and are asking questions on accessibility and justice, the role of fishing as a source for food and recreation, food safety and human health, ethical dimensions of the fisher-fish relationship, sustainable use of fish populations, and urban aquatic biodiversity. 

Publications

From Anthrome to Refugium? A Short History of Small-Scale Fisheries in the Anthropocene (2019)

 

In this article, we investigate small-scale fisheries—their characteristics and values—by considering the type of aquatic and marine environments in the Global North and South that they exploit and change. We use the literature on (small-scale) fisheries and our own studies to argue that the aquatic and marine environments where small-scale fishers currently operate are shrinking under the pressures from a globalizing and urbanizing world, to the extent that they acquire characteristics of biocultural refugia.

Boonstra, W.J., Björkvik, E., Joosse, S., & Hanh, T.T. H. (2019). From Anthrome to Refugium? A Short History of Small-Scale Fisheries in the Anthropocene.

Fishing in the city for food- a paradigmatic case of sustainability in urban blue space (2021) 

 

This article presents fishing in the city for food (FCF) as a trenchant example of urban ecology, and the ways in which urban dwellers use, interact with and depend on urban blue spaces. Our literature review demonstrates how FCF is studied in a diverse body of scientific publications that rarely draw on each other. As such, FCF and its relevance for sustainable and just planning of urban blue space remain relatively unknown. Using the literature review, a survey of FCF in European capitals, and examples from FCF in Stockholm, we demonstrate how attention to FCF raises pertinent and interrelated questions about access to water, food and recreation; human health; animal welfare and aquatic urban biodiversity.

Joosse, S., Hensle, L., Boonstra, W.J., Ponzelar, C., & Olsson, J. (2021). Fishing in the city for food- a paradigmatic case of sustainability in urban blue space. 

Urban fishing reveals underrepresented diversity (2022) (Correspondance article)

In collaboration with a network of other scholars who research urban fishing, we wrote a correspondence article to the article "Harnessing the diversity of small-scale actors is key to the future of aquatic food systems" (Short et al., 2021). Short et al. (2021) stress the need to acknowledge the vast diversity within small-scale fisheries and aquaculture (SSFA) and that contemporary governance must avoid assuming homogeneity in the SSFA sector when informing governance actions. Though Short et al. 2021 provide a much-needed snapshot of SSFA diversity, our commentary highlights that their framing of SSFA as only rural neglects the importance of urban SSFA and urban fishing, which is, in general, unacknowledged and understudied. Although the contribution that urban fishing makes to food production should not be overestimated, urban fishing provides important nutritional and sociocultural benefits to a growing group of city dwellers who use fishing to complement precarious livelihoods, as well as provide leisure, cultural and social expressions to many. With our commentary, we hope to draw attention to the importance of including urban fishers in future research to fully understand the vast diversity of SSFA.

 

Publication in Nature Food: Boonstra, W.J., Boucquey, N., Carlson, A.K. et al. Urban fishing reveals underrepresented diversity. Nat Food (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s43016-022-00501-2 

Read the commentary here.

The Project 'Urban Fishing and the Blue Commons'

Urbanfishing.org is part of the project ‘Blue Urban Commons’ (2020-2023). This project investigates how use of blue urban spaces, such as canals, lakes, ponds and rivers, can help make city life more sustainable. The value and function of urban ecosystems for sustainable life has recently gained attraction, but much less attention is given to blue urban spaces. There is still a lot to learn: about the aquatic ecologies in the city, and how urban dwellers use and depend on these ecologies for recreation, food, and their wellbeing.

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The research in this project will investigate questions about the aquatic ecological status of urban blue space, its access and use, and distribution of benefits to urban dwellers. City fishing in the Swedish capitol of Stockholm is used as a case study. The project integrates ecological and social scientific methods and brings together an interdisciplinary team of scholars from Uppsala and Stockholm University and The Swedish University for Agricultural Sciences.

 

The project is funded by FORMAS, the Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development. Results of the research will inform urban planning that aims to contribute to sustainable and fair use of blue urban space as common property.