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13-14 June 2023


Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland

Beyond Growth: Fishing for the Future in a Wellbeing Economy

A conference sponsored by the OECD’s Co-operative Research Programme: Sustainable Agricultural and Systems, and co-hosted by Seas At Risk

Beyond Growth: Fishing for the Future in a Wellbeing Economy

Time & Location

13-14 June 2023

Edinburgh Business School, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh, Scotland


About the event

The aim of the Beyond Growth Symposium is to provide a new vision for operationalising fisheries in a wellbeing economy.

The benefits of the oceans to the planet and people in the fishing industry include:

  • The oceans are the primary source of nutritious animal protein for billions of people
  • The oceans support global food security, livelihoods and socio-economic development
  • The oceans are the earth’s most effective carbon sink, host the largest habitat for wildlife, biodiversity and are essential for planetary biogeochemical cycles.

Our global oceans challenges and fishing:

The state of the oceans is rapidly degrading and this is having a negative impact on the socio-economic potential of fishing. These include:

  • Accelerating biodiversity and natural capital pressures from industrial fishing
  • Pollution originating from land, such as agriculture and plastics
  • Continuing illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
  • Increasing diverse ecosystem impacts emerging from the expansion of aquaculture
  • Social injustice including poor working conditions, severe human rights abuses, slavery, debt bondage, inequality, diminishing access rights for small-scale fishers and an erosion of coastal communities to forge livelihoods

Current socio-economic systemic pressures:

With the post pandemic era compounded by the cost of living crisis, ever-present climate change and heightened inequalities, questions are being raised about the nature and balance of our economic systems that are predicated on perpetual expansion.

  • Perpetual economic expansion, at the expense of a poorly regulated and monitored fishing industry, contradicts sustainable societal goals such as collective wellbeing, social justice, equity, responsible environmental management and respect for the oceans natural resources.
  • The current economic system benefits a small minority of people only, in economic terms, by virtue of disproportionate access rights to natural resources and a disrespect for laws and convemtions.

How we can transition fisheries into a wellbeing economic system:

Reallocating resources and re-calibrating existing systemic excesses into societal needs-based policies that support regeneration of the natural world, re-distribute economic activity more equitably and foster respect for community development is called a wellbeing economy.

When we talk about designing a wellbeing economy, we are really talking about designing ways to improve every person’s life. In a wellbeing economy, policies are framed in terms of human and ecological wellbeing, not just in terms of pure economic growth and relying on it exclusively while compromising human rights and living conditions. The emphasis is not on less, but on more balance, more diversity, more representation and more respect for the resources that must sustain livelihoods into the future.

Building a wellbeing economy requires embracing new ways of thinking, actively engaging in widespread systems innovation to generate real progress toward a healthier world and thriving lives for all. A wellbeing economy provides people with equal opportunities for advancement, a sense of social inclusion, and stability—all of which contribute to human resilience and dignity, sustaining and supporting harmony with the natural world. It requires policies, institutions and businesses to work together with people and communities. Businesses need to play a vital role in the transition to a wellbeing economy as they can be the agent of change for creativity and innovation: purpose driven rather than profit maximisation.

Despite these terms entering the policymaking discourse and a drive by the European Union to adopt such principles, their application to operationalise in the supply of seafood has not been well defined. The Beyond Growth Symposium will provide a new vision for operationalising fisheries in a wellbeing economic system by:

  1. Increasing scientific and practical understanding wellbeing in future fisheries;
  2. Developing a vision and practical framework for a Future Fishing Wellbeing Economic System;
  3. Bringing together multiple stakeholders to co-create recommendations that will enable to creation of a Future Fishing Wellbeing Economic System;

It will do this by bringing together leading members of the scientific community working on the inter-disciplinary areas of degrowth and wellbeing across multiple but inter-related sectors, with a number of other stakeholders including fishers representing different scales, decision makers from industry and policy, to collaboratively discuss the vision and frameworks required to support prosperity without growth. The symposium will be the first to address the multi-dimensional challenges that exist in the fishing industry to build systems and institutions for the future.

Further Reading:

OECD (2020), Beyond Growth: Towards a New Economic Approach, New Approaches to Economic Challenges, OECD Publishing, Paris.

This is the moment to go beyond GDP

Jason Hickel (2020). Less is More. How Degrowth will Save the World. Penguin Random House.

Sponsored by:

The OECD Co-operative Research Programme: Sustainable Agricultural and Food Systems and co-hosted by Seas At Risk

-> Participation Excursion - Thursday, June 15 - visiting Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and an aquaculture site


  • 30 minutes


  • 10 minutes

    Welcome Agenda for the Day and Housekeeping with Ingrid Kelling

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