Community and commons in the Digital Ocean

St Martin Liviana Keynote

How do communities and commons become a meaningful part of how oceans and fisheries are thought about, researched and managed?

This question was explored in Kevin St Martin’s opening keynote of the CERN Liviana online conference, entitled “Creating openings for community and commons in the Digital Ocean.”

St Martin drew on his twenty years of research experience working with fishing communities in the North East of the US, and reflected on how his work has expanded from the initial use of collaborative and qualitative mapping exercises to incorporate an algorithmic-based approach that enables a regional analysis of fishing communities.

The benefit of this approach has been that fishing communities that were previously invisible to environmental and ecological scientists, fisheries and ocean managers and others are now recognised as a crucial unit of analysis and able to be incorporated into projections about the impacts of climate change on fisheries.

One of St Martin’s contributions to a series of large research projects has shown how smaller family-based fishing endeavours are diversifying their catch in response to the northward shift of various fish species.

This strategy helps fishers maintain their fidelity to onshore communities where there are long-standing relationships and economic ties.

Such insights help to insert the concerns of fishers and fishing communities about livelihoods, employment opportunities, families and townships into policy and public debate about climate change impacts.

This is an important intervention that ‘makes real’ the lived concerns of fishers and fishing communities and shows how limited is the prevailing assumption that fishing is a simply a practice of utility-maximising fishers who are tragically overfishing a marine commons.

St Martin reflects that this is shifting the nature of politics from the volatile meetings of the 1990s when fishers and environmental managers engaged in heated exchanges about fisheries management to a quieter form of deliberation in which the concerns of fishers and fishing-based communities are receiving wider recognition.

The full playlist of sessions from LIVIANA 2021 can be accessed by clicking here.

Kevin St Martin's keynote can be accessed by clicking here.

The second keynote by Maliha Safri can be accessed by clicking here; and a news story about her keynote is available by clicking here.


Jenny Cameron