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The six national reports give an informative view of the diversity of groups of users of artisanal fisheries resources. In each country six to seven major livelihood groups have been defined. Taking into account the diversity of actors involved and their interests. Characterization of the different groups focused on the following factors:

The detailed analysis of these groups and their vulnerability context are presented in the six national reports. Here, we present an overview of characteristics of the groups found in almost all the countries (Table 1). Box 1 gives an example of characteristics of two groups of livelihoods in Guinea: fishermen and processors. They show the difference or diversities in characteristics, constraints or strategies.

The results on the livelihood groups show the importance of fishery research taking into account all the categories of actors acting both upstream and downstream. This enables a response to the specific constraints and increased impact on all the groups involved: fishers, wholesale fish merchants, boat owners, processors, service providers etc.

Table 1: Synthesis: Some livelihood groups in artisanal fisheries

SL Group

Main Characteristics

Key “Gender” issues

Key strategies

Major constraints relating to capital

Key vulnerability factors



(a) Do not own fishing gear.
(b) Are employed by ship owners.
(c) Are paid by the piece/part.

(a) Groups consisting mainly of men (at least 80%).
(b) Groups consisting of indigenous and non indigenous settlers.

(a) Are very mobile and follow the movement of the resource (migration).
(b) Some engage in secondary activities (agriculture, cattle-rearing, petty trading...).
(c) Good organization within the group.

(a) Certain fisheries resources are endangered (diminishing resources).
(b) Illiteracy of communities.
(c) Low level of training (professionalism).
(d) Inadequate organization and supervision.
(e) Limited access to credit.
(f) Inadequacy or absence of basic infrastructure (education health, roads....).
(g) High costs of inputs.
(h) Difficult access to land for farming.

(a) Frequent disputes between industrial and artisanal fishermen (non-respect for zones).
(b) Rebel incursions in some countries (Guinea).
(c) Piracy at sea and insecurity (risk of loss of life).
(d) Inadequate application of texts in some countries.
(e) Slow-down in fishing activities at certain times of the year.
(f) Disputes between indigenous and settler fishermen.
(g) Changes in policies (disengagement, liberalisation...).
(h) Difficult access to credit.

(a) These groups are relatively well organized (professional organizations).

Wholesale fish sellers

(a) Derive most of their income from fish selling.
(b) Employ pieceworkers.

(a) Groups comprise men and women in different proportions depending on the country:
a.1. Mostly women (Mauritania)
a.2. Especially women (at least 90%) (Cameroon, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal).

(a) Include smoking activities in some cases.
(b) Diversify their activities.
(c) Pre-finance fishing trips.
(d) Are mobile.

(a) Illiteracy.
(b) Low level of training (professionalism).
(c) Inadequate organization and supervision.
(d) Lack of inadequacy of storage, transport infrastructure.
(e) High rates of interest and inflation.

(a) Landlocked zones of fishing activities especially in the winter period.
(b) Inadequacy or lack of credit institutions.
(c) Inadequate resource and seasonal fluctuation in its availability (seasonality of the activity).


(a) Own processing equipment.
(b) Derive most of their income from processing.

(a) Group comprises mainly women (98%).

(a) Often on the fish seller circuit.
(b) Often pre-finance fishing trips.
(c) Diversification of species processed and sources of supply.
(d) Diversification of activities by integrating petty trading.
(e) Rarely migrate.

(a) Fishery resources threatened by over-exploitation (diminishing resource).
(b) High illiteracy rate.
(c) Low level of training (professionalism) - ignorance of quality standards.
(d) Activity-related sanitation problems.
(e) Inadequate organization and supervision.
(f) Difficult access to credit.
(g) Diminishing wood energy resources.

(a) Seasonal disappearance of the resource to be processed.
(b) Reduction in forestry resources due to intensive utilization of forestry resources by development projects).
(c) Inadequacies of infrastructure (motorways, cold chains, transport ...).
(d) Macroeconomic policies (liberalisation, elimination of subsidies...).

(a) Groups more often than not well organized and structured.

Ship owners

(a) Own fishing gear.
(b) Finance fishing operations; often employers of fishermen.

(a) Group comprising mostly men (90%).

(a) Migrate with crews in order to better supervise activities.
(b) Remain linked to the fishermen with whom they form cooperatives or associations.
(c) Practice other activities to diversify their sources of income (agriculture...).

(a) Fisheries resources threatened by overexploitation.
(b) High illiteracy rates.
(c) Inadequate knowledge of normal regulatory texts in some cases.
(d) Inadequate level of organization and supervision.
(e) Obsolete equipment and lack of safety equipment at sea.
(f) Difficulty in accessing credit and high level of inflation.

(a) Disputes between artisanal and industrial fishermen.
(b) Ineffective application of regulatory texts is the cause of conflict.
(c) Slowdown in fishing activities at certain period of the year.

(a) These groups are often well-organized (professional organizations).


(a) Work exclusively on the engines and outboard motors.
(b) Paid piecemeal.

(a) Groups made up of men.

(a) Set up mainly on larger jetties.

(a) Low level of qualification for some (professionalisation).
(b) Poor organization and supervision.
(c) Scarcity and expensiveness of motors and spare parts.
(d) High inflation and interest rates.

(a) Scarcity and high costs of motors and spare parts following State disengagement from import circuits.
(b) Weak or absent credit institutions.
(c) Slowdown in fishing activities at certain period of the year (fall in demand for repairs).

Boat Builders

(a) Build and repair boats.
(b) Only set up on big landing jetties.
(c) Are paid per job or for the sale of equipment.

(a) Groups exclusively comprising men.

(a) Have other activities (agriculture, petty trading...).
(b) Are not mobile.

(a) Some forestry resources endangered by over-exploitation.
(b) Low level of training (professionnalisation).
(c) Poor organization and supervision.

(a) Deforestation accompanied by reduced wood resources.
(b) Weak or absent credit institutions.
(c) Slowdown in fishing activities at certain periods of the year (seasonality of demand).
(d) Macroeconomic changes which affect prices of materials.

(a) Groups more often not well organized and structured.

Net makers

(a) Produce and repair nets.
(b) Are remunerated piece meal.

(a) Groups comprise mainly men.
(b) But some women and youth are involved in the maintenance and upkeep of the nets.

(a) Have other activities (agriculture, petty trading...)
(b) Are often mobile.

(a) Reduction in the resource and fishing activities at certain times of the year (lower demand for maintenance).

Box 1: Fishers and fish processors in Guinea


Main Characteristics

i) Do not own fishing gear.

ii) Are employed by boat owners.

iii) Are remunerated piecemeal/share basis.

iv) Fishing constitutes the sole source of income for full-time fishermen and more than 50 percent for the multidisciplinary (exercizing several activities).

v) Group comprising exclusively men (minimum age 15; average 36 years).

vi) Group linked to professional organizations (e.g. National Union of Artisanal Fishermen of Guinea - UNPAG).

Key Strategies

i) Migrate frequently and follow the movement of fishery resources.

ii) Some of them have secondary activities (agriculture, cattle rearing, petty trading...).

Major constraints related to capital

i) Shrinkage of the resource.

ii) High illiteracy levels.

iii) Low level of training and supervision (lack of professionalism).

iv) Difficult access to credit.

v) Difficult access to land for those engaged in farming.

vi) Absence or inadequacy of basic infrastructures (education, health, roads, food, water...).


i) Seasonality of the activity (reduced resources in certain periods of the year).

ii) Frequent disputes between artisanal and industrial fishermen (destruction of fishing gear) - inappropriate application of current regulatory texts (non observance of fishing zones).

iii) Insecurity at sea (risk of loss of life): rebel incursions (2000-2001).

iv) Change in policies (disengagement, liberalisation...): high cost of inputs, inflation...

Fish Processors

Main characteristics

i) Owners (individually or collectively) of processing equipment.

ii) Obtain most of their income from fish processing.

iii) Group comprises mainly of women (90 percent) average age 44 years.

iv) Group showing solidarity and organization (e.g. Co-operative of Female Fish Smokers of Bonfi - (COFFUB)).

Key Strategies

i) Often on the same circuit as the wholesalers.

ii) Often pre-financed fishing trips (to have better access to the resource).

iii) Rarely migrate.

Major constraints related to capitals

i) Reduction in the resource to be processed (seasonal variations in the volume of processing activities).

ii) High level of illiteracy.

iii) Low level of training and supervision (lack of professionalism) - quality standards not taken into account.

iv) High rates of inflation and interest.

v) Deterioration in health status due to smoke.


i) Reduced wood resources.

ii) Seasonal variation in the availability of the resource for processing.

iii) Rebel incursions (affecting the availability of the resource to be processed).

iv) Embezzling of working capital by crew members.

Source: Guinea national report

The following findings emerge from the analysis of national reports:

Box 2: Gender issues in artisanal fishing in Nigeria

In Nigeria, the predominance of women or men in an SL group normally depends on several factors:

  • the assets and training required to engage in the activities;

  • religious or cultural norms which prohibit certain activities depending on sex in certain regions (e.g. in northern Nigeria, women, and in particular Muslim women of child-bearing age, are forbidden from marketing fish leaving women from the south to dominate this trade).

A lot of work and tasks are distributed on gender basis. Men dominate the following groups: fishers, mechanics, boat builders, and trade in equipment. Women often control the following: processing/conservation of fish products (smoking, drying etc.), the fish trade in those places where there are no socio-economic constraints and net production; they are also involved in inland fisheries. It is also to be observed that there is a general distribution between inland fisheries that is dominated by women and offshore activities that are the exclusive preserve of the men. This distribution can be explained by maternal responsibilities of women and the danger and loss of life often recorded at sea.

This distribution of work has economic consequences. Whereas the capital costs for maritime fishing are high, the profits made are much more substantial than for river fishing.

Source: National Report, Nigeria

The Nigerian team made an interesting attempt at analysing vulnerability costs for each SL group. The usefulness of the innovative methodology proposed merits for further consideration in future research work (see Box 3).

Box 3: Vulnerability costing for artisanal fishing SL groups: Example of fishers

The vulnerability costs of the fishermen threatened by trawlers are calculated bearing in mind the following factors:

  • cost of capital

  • loss of income

The cost of capital is obtained by multiplying the average number of nets destroyed by trawlers in one fishing season by the average cost of a net and the number of fishing communities on the coast threatened by the trawlers.

The loss of income is determined by the product of the value of fish caught on each trip and the average number of trips per fisher per month per community.

Thus, for this SL group, vulnerability in terms of the cost of capital is estimated at about 18,495,000 Nigerian Naira. The vulnerability in terms of loss of income is estimated to be between 34 and 46 million Naira.

Source: Nigeria national report; 1US$ = 119.50 Naira

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