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Small-scale fisheries . The FAO Working Group on Small-Scale Fisheries (Bangkok, November 2003) agreed that it would be inappropriate to formulate a universally applicable definition for a sector as dynamic and diverse as small-scale fisheries. The Working Group felt that it would be best to describe the sector on the basis of the range of characteristics that are likely to be found in any particular small-scale fishery. The following characterization of small-scale fisheries was therefore endorsed:

Small-scale fisheries can be broadly characterized as a dynamic and evolving sector employing labour intensive harvesting, processing and distribution technologies to exploit marine and inland water fishery resources. The activities of this subsector, conducted full-time or part-time, or just seasonally, are often targeted on supplying fish and fishery products to local and domestic markets, and for subsistence consumption. Export-oriented production, however, has increased in many small-scale fisheries during the last one to two decades because of greater market integration and globalization. While typically men are engaged in fishing and women in fish processing and marketing, women are also known to engage in near shore harvesting activities and men are known to engage in fish marketing and distribution. Other ancillary activities such as net-making, boatbuilding, engine repair and maintenance, etc. can provide additional fishery-related employment and income opportunities in marine and inland fishing communities. Small-scale fisheries operate at widely differing organizational levels ranging from self-employed single operators through informal micro-enterprises to formal sector businesses. This subsector, therefore, is not homogenous within and across countries and regions and attention to this fact is warranted when formulating strategies and policies for enhancing its contribution to food security and poverty alleviation.7

The Working Group also noted some additional technological dimensions, in particular the fact that small-scale fishers usually operate in-shore, target multiple species, and use a large range of different fishing gear and techniques, some of which may be relatively simple. In addition, the “multi-use, multi-user environment” of small-scale fisheries should be noted. Both coastal and inland fisheries compete with other users for the resource-base and this multi-use, multi-user dimension is another key characteristic which can greatly affect the livelihoods of fishing communities.

Poverty . The Human Development Report,8 in a discussion of poverty and human development, reasons that

Poverty means that opportunities and choices most basic to human development are denied - to lead a long, healthy, creative life and to enjoy a decent standard of living, freedom, dignity, self-respect and the respect of others.

Poverty may also be seen as encompassing

…different dimensions of deprivation that relate to human needs, including consumption and food security, health, education, rights, voice, security, dignity and decent work,9

This understanding of poverty results from a long evolution in the ways it has been perceived, understood and measured. It recognizes the limitations of viewing poverty solely in terms of income or consumption, and the need for a broader “multidimensional” definition. Poverty in fishery-dependent communities is therefore not necessarily directly - or only - related to the resource or catch levels. For example, although resource overexploitation may be a major cause of impoverishment for fishing communities, extreme poverty can also be observed in remote fishing camps where fishers catch and trade reasonable volumes of fish, but where communities lack access to health and other public services and are politically un-represented.

Poverty reduction . In the context of these guidelines, poverty reduction is a process through which people are becoming measurably better off over time due to their involvement/investment in fisheries activities. Poverty reduction, therefore, refers to a situation where wealth is generated and capital accumulated through capital and labour investment, thus helping to lift people out of poverty in all its dimensions.

There are three economic levels at which poverty reduction can occur: (i) wealth generation at the household level and its distribution within households - to men, women and children, (ii) development at the community level , and (iii) economic growth at the national level .

The interdependence between these three levels is not straightforward. Migrant fishers may earn significant cash income that is not remitted back to their households, leaving their families in conditions of poverty. A few fishers may become very rich (wealth generation) without necessarily benefiting the community within which they live. On the other hand, in some countries where small-scale fisheries contribute significantly to national economic growth, many fishing communities in remote coastal areas are still living at the margins of subsistence and dignity.

Poverty prevention . Poverty prevention refers to the role of fisheries activities in helping people to maintain a minimum standard of living (even when it is below a given poverty line) and which helps them to survive. Poverty prevention thus refers to reducing risks and increasing safety net functions in a general context of vulnerability.

Vulnerability . Vulnerability can be conceptualized10 as a condition arising from the interaction of three factors, namely:

Box 1: Vulnerability and the tsunami disaster
The earthquake off the coast of Sumatra of 26 December 2004 was the fourth largest in the world since 1900 and the largest in nearly half a century. The resulting tsunami surged with devastating force against at least 12 countries, reaching as far as the Horn of Africa and causing one of the world's worst natural disasters in modern times. It killed about 300000 people (a precise figure will never be known) and shattered the livelihoods of millions, who lost their homes and productive assets.
The tsunami disaster disproportionately affected poor people and especially poor fishing communities, which lost all or most of their livelihood assets. In several localities the communities were destroyed in their entirety.
The tsunami demonstrates the utter devastation possible as a result of a natural disaster and the vulnerability of fishing communities to it. Since fishing communities are often situated on low lying coastal land, lives, homes and productive assets are highly exposed to natural disasters. Although many afflicted communities have shown great resilience, their adaptive capacity is low as a result of poverty, making it difficult to recover and adapt to new circumstances.

Poor people tend to be more vulnerable (more exposed and more sensitive to risk and with less adaptive capacity) than the non-poor. The poor generally cannot access insurance or good quality services (e.g. health, education), for instance, and may depend highly on the fisheries to ensure their food security. But it is also true that in a given environment, with the same level of income and similar access to public services, some people may still be more vulnerable than others due to the very nature of the activity on which they depend.

Poverty alleviation .Poverty alleviation may be used as an inclusive term encompassing poverty reduction and poverty prevention (and vulnerability reduction) .

Food security . The 1996 World Food Summit defined food security as “a condition when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”.

A country's capacity to produce sufficient food to feed its population, referred to as national food self-sufficiency, is neither necessary nor sufficient to guarantee food security at the individual/household level. Some countries may be food self-sufficient, yet remain with a large proportion of their populations suffering conditions of food insecurity; other countries may not be self-sufficient yet exhibit little food insecurity due to a strong capacity to import. Food security, therefore, is brought about by a combination of individual, household, community, national and even international factors. In particular, for national self-sufficiency to ensure individual food security, it requires and presupposes efficient “trickle-down” and redistribution mechanisms, and transfer-based entitlements (i.e. individual-based access to these mechanisms).11

Another aspect of food security is its linkage to the production process. Fishing can contribute directly to food security through the supply of fish itself (i.e. through subsistence mechanisms). But it may also contribute indirectly to food security through revenues generated from production and related processing and marketing activities (whether individuals are self-employed or paid wages), which can then be used to purchase food.

A further dimension of the “fish-food security” issue is the growing imbalance between fish supply and fish demand at the world level, which has resulted in a general trend of rising prices for fish. The current situation of the world's capture fisheries - which have reached a plateau in production of around 95 million tonnes per year12 - contrasts with the still increasing world population and its associated growing demand for food in general as well as for fish. Measured in terms of annual per capita fish supply, these diverging trends resulted in an aggregate decrease per capita of 10 percent between 1987 and 2000.

Food security is a fundamental dimension of poverty. People who are chronically poor usually lack access to adequate food. Malnutrition negatively affects people's working and learning capacity, and may affect vulnerable groups living just above the poverty threshold, causing them to enter the ranks of the poor. Eliminating hunger and malnutrition, therefore, is a precondition for the eradication of poverty.

The different dimensions of poverty and food security are summarized in the tables in the Appendix.

7 FAO/Advisory Committee on Fisheries Research. 2004. Report of the second session of the Working Party on Small-scale Fisheries. Bangkok, Thailand, 18 – 21November 2003. FAO Fisheries Report. No. 735 Rome, FAO. 21 pp.

8 UNDP. 1997. Human Development to Eradicate Poverty , Human Development Report, United Nations Development Programme, New York.

9 Adapted from a definition in the Development Action Committee's (DAC) Guidelines on Poverty Reduction (OECD 2001).

10 e.g. Adger, W.N.; Brooks, N.; Bentham, G.; Agnew, M.; Eriksen, S. 2004. New indicators of vulnerability and adaptive capacity . Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Technical Report 7, Norwich, U.K.

11 Sen, A.K. 1996. Economic Interdependence and the World Food Summit . Development 4 Journal of SID.

12 FAO, 2004 (see footnote 3).

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