Critical Development Studies Series

Global Fishers

The Politics of Transnational Movements

by Elyse Noble Mills  

This book draws upon political economy and political ecology debates to focus on the socio-ecological dynamics of fisheries politics.

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  • March 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773635941
  • 188 pages
  • $24.00
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  • EPUB March 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773636160
  • $21.99
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  • PDF March 2023
  • ISBN: 9781773636177
  • $21.99
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About the book

Global politics around fisheries are complex and contentious. Embedded within this sector, small-scale fishers’ movements are continuously confronted with new actors, issues and conflicting interests. Yet, these movements and their political agendas have played a critical role in global fisheries. This book offers an insightful exploration and analysis of two transnational movements — the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF) — tracing their origins, development, struggles and engagement in international political spaces. It explores three overlapping analytical spheres: transnational movements contesting and seeking to influence the politics of global fisheries; international political spaces movements are prioritizing; and contentious fisheries issues movements are struggling over.

Activism & Social Movements Global Studies & Development Political Economy

What people are saying

Saturnino M. Borras Jr., co-author of Political Dynamics of Transnational Agrarian Movements

Global Fishers: The Politics of Transnational Movements by Elyse Mills is a pathbreaking book about a very important but largely overlooked transnational social movement. It is a modern classic in the making. All academic researchers and activists interested in social justice and a positive future of humanity must read this book.”

Liam Campling, author of Capitalism and the Sea (Verso, 2021) and Professor of International Business and Development, Queen Mary University of London

Global Fishers offers an unparalleled historical account of one of the world’s lesser known, but vitally important social movements. But Elyse Mills’ book is more than a history of the transnational fishers’ movement, it is also an insider account of political strategies, splits and struggles as they unfold to resist the ever-shifting forces of industrialization, privatization and extractivism. Essential reading for students of anthropology, development studies and politics who know that history is made as much from the bottom-up as it is from the top-down.”

Jessica Duncan, Associate Professor in the Politics of Food Systems Transformations, Wageningen University

“A powerful message about the past, present and future of global fishers’ movements. This book advances our understandings of the politics of fishers’ movements and, in so doing, offers important insights into the politics of fisheries and food systems more broadly. A must read for anyone working at the intersection of movements and food governance.”

Charles Levkoe, Canada Research Chair in Equitable and Sustainable Food Systems and Associate Professor, Lakehead University

“This is a very well researched and written book that will make an important contribution to the scholarship and practice of transnational fishers’ movements and social movements more broadly. The text provides a valuable overview of two key network organizations at the centre of fishers’ movements and traces their origins, development, and engagement in contemporary transnational political spaces.”

Sofia Monsalve, Secretary General, FIAN International

“Can we conceive food sovereignty and climate justice without the peoples from the lakes, rivers and oceans? Clearly not and yet we know little about them. This book is a ground breaking contribution to fill this gap. It tells the story of the fisher peoples, their struggles and aspirations, and how they have organized to defend not just themselves but our blue planet.”

Kristen Lowitt, Assistant Professor, School of Environmental Studies, Queen’s University

“This book fills an important gap in the literature on global politics and transnational social movements through its focus on small-scale fishers’ movements.”

Marc Edelman, Hunter College & The Graduate Center, City University of New York

Elyse Noble Mills has written the definitive account of transnational fishers’ movements, such as the World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) and the World Forum of Fish Harvesters and Fish Workers (WFF). But this magnificent book is more than that, analyzing not just justice movements of small-scale fishers but also the varied global governance arenas that deal with ocean and inland aquatic resources, climate change, plummeting seafood stocks, and thorny issues of geopolitics, biodiversity, and intellectual property of genetic material. A remarkable tour-de-force!”

Anthony Charles, Director, School of the Environment, Saint Mary’s University, Canada

Global Fishers: The Politics of Transnational Movements is a fascinating book that should be essential reading for anyone interested in the world’s small-scale fisheries, in social justice movements, and in big global issues of climate change and food security. Mills explores how these all inter-relate, in an intriguing book that looks back in time, and forward, through the lens of the two major international fishers’ movements.”

Nettie Wiebe, farmer, founding leader of La Vía Campesina and Professor Emerita at St. Andrew’s College, University of Saskatchewan

“Mills has crafted a clear, well organized and highly informative book describing the struggles, politics, aspirations and possibilities of the global “fisheries justice” movements. It is a ‘must read’ for students of history, food justice activists, and indeed for anyone who seeks to understand the critical link between small-scale fishers, food security, ecological health and climate change.”

Murat Arsel, Professor of Political Economy, International Institute of Social Studies

“In this empirically rich and carefully argued book, Elyse Mills analyses the structural conditions which shaped the transnational fishers’ struggles for justice and recognition. She shows how activists were able to build and maintain through painstaking organizational work an effective movement, which not only defended fishers’ interests but also contributed to food sovereignty and agrarian justice movements. This is essential reading for scholars and activists interested in social movements and environmental justice.”

Maarten Bavinck, Professor of Coastal Resource Governance, University of Amsterdam

“Millions of fishermen and women in developing countries undergo great hardship because of the waves of industrialization, privatization and conservation that have whipped their industries. In response, however, they have organized themselves and fought battles to defend their ways of life. This book provides a thoughtful analysis of the backgrounds and the political strategies of the most important international fishers’ movements of this moment. The author must be congratulated for contributing a timely account of this overlooked corner of global food politics.”


Elyse Noble Mills

Elyse Noble Mills is a program associate for the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, working with fishers’ organizations on international processes and campaigns. She has a PhD from the International Institute of Social Studies in the Netherlands, where her research focused on the politics of transnational fishers’ movements and global fisheries.


  • Chapter 1: Introduction: Diving into the Politics of Transnational “Fisheries Justice” Movements
  • Chapter 2: Three Waves of Development in Global Fisheries: Industrialization, Privatization, Conservation
  • Chapter 3: Transnational Fishers’ Movements: Birth, Consolidation, Evolution and Contestation
  • Chapter 4: International Political Spaces: Movements as Actors in Fisheries, Food and Climate Governance
  • Chapter 5: Contentious Fisheries Issues: At the Heart of Social and Political Struggles
  • Conclusion: Capacities, Alliances, Critical Voices and the Future of Fisheries Justice


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