International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability

Session 4

Securing sustainable fisheries livelihoods

FAO session lead: Nicole Franz

Speakers and panelists

Webcast link

More than 40 million people around the world are engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries. When adding the even larger number of people involved in pre- and post-harvest activities, it is clear that fisheries constitute a crucial source of income and livelihoods in the world today. The fisheries sector is very diverse and employs more people than all other ocean-based industries put together. In stark contrast to other ocean-based industries, women are particularly significant participants in both inland and marine fisheries value chains.

Fisheries often underpin the economic and social fabric of coastal and rural communities, and are thus crucial for community coherence and stability as well as for local economies. Livelihood dependency on fisheries is heterogeneous and very dynamic. While Europe and North America have experienced a decrease in the number of people engaged in fisheries in recent times, Africa and Asia, with higher population growth and increasing transformation and trade in fish, have shown generally upward trends. Almost 80% of those currently employed in capture fishing are in Asia and 13% in Africa.

Maintaining the livelihoods and diversity of those dependent on inland and marine capture fisheries value chains requires addressing common vulnerabilities – to internal and external threats such as environmental degradation, pollution, competition from other sectors, and severe working conditions. Maintaining and improving the livelihoods of those working in small- scale fisheries, which make up 90% of the fishery sector, also requires improving the situation of fishers and their communities – who are often economically poor and politically weak, and thus often marginalized.

Often such social complexities are not adequately considered, and nor are the impacts of decisions over fisheries governance. Good governance is fundamental to securing the key ingredients of sustainable fisheries livelihoods, such as equitable access to resources and co-management, empowerment, inclusiveness and gender equity. There are several global instruments and frameworks on good governance which support fisheries livelihoods (e.g. SDGs, ILO instruments, the SSF Guidelines, VGGT). Also important are the overarching instruments that are relevant to fisheries but often not implemented in fisheries (e.g. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action of the 4th World Conference on Women; International Labour Organization C. 190: Convention Concerning the Elimination of Violence and Harassment in the World of Work). These and other relevant instruments need to be fully recognized and applied to ensure sustainable livelihoods in the sector.

Appropriate information in the form of traditional knowledge, women's knowledge and scientific data is needed as well as trans-disciplinary approaches and methods for data collection and analysis in order to deal with the fisheries sector in a holistic manner, recognizing the roles of both women and men all along different value chains.

This session will focus on the challenge of achieving equitable and sustainable livelihoods for the millions of women and men who depend on marine and inland fisheries production and value chains for their livelihoods, and whose daily work helps feed billions of people around the world. Questions and issues to explore in this context include:

  • How can the horizon of fisheries management and governance be expanded to better address fisheries-based livelihoods, including their social, cultural and equity dimensions? What good practices exist with regard to secure and equitable tenure and access rights, participation in decision-making and decent work?
  • What innovative approaches are needed with regard to governance coalitions, cross-sectoral collaboration and engagement with fishers and fish workers?
  • How can the implementation of existing international instruments – including specialized fisheries instruments and overarching instruments on labour, gender equality and social responsible value chains – be promoted and accelerated in support of sustainable fisheries-based livelihoods? What are the incentives for and benefits from implementing these instruments?
  • What are the key knowledge needs to support equitable and sustainable livelihoods, what information exists already, and what are the gaps? What can be done, beyond current action, to achieve full coverage of sex-disaggregated data for all value chain activities, given that current efforts are focused only on production in value chains and cover very few countries?

Accordingly, this session will discuss existing experiences and showcase empirical examples of how fisheries livelihoods have been enhanced. It will also elaborate on policy options and practical strategies that should be sought for securing equitable outcomes for men and women in fisheries.

The outcomes of this session will support:

SDG 1 – Reduce poverty
SDG 2 – Food security
SDG 3 – Health and wellbeing
SDG 5 – Gender equality
SDG 8 - Decent work and economic growth
SDG 10 – Reduce inequalities
SDG targets 14.4, 14.7 & 14.B
SDG 16 – Effective institutions
SIDS Samoa Pathways
FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication
FAO Code of Conduct for responsible Fisheries