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Globally more than one billion people are living on less than US$1 a day, and 840 million people remain classified as undernourished. As a result, in recent years there has been a re-focusing on poverty and food security by many Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), academics, development practitioners, governments, and donor agencies.

The 2002 United Nations (UN) World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), the 2000 World Development Report published by the World Bank, the UN Millennium Declaration adopted in 2000,2 and the 1996 FAO World Food Summit, all considered poverty alleviation as a central priority.

With regard to food security, at an international conference on the Sustainable Contribution of Fisheries to Food Supply held in Kyoto, Japan in 1995, the 95 participating states approved a Declaration and a Plan of Action to enhance the contribution of fisheries to human food supply. The 1996 World Food Summit stressed the connection between food security and the need for sustainable management of natural resources. The 2002 WSSD also focused on food security as a key issue and reiterated a global commitment to responsible fisheries.

An estimated 90 percent of the 38 million people recorded by the FAO globally as fishers and fish-farmers3 are classified as small-scale. An additional more than 100 million people are estimated to be employed in other fisheries associated occupations,4 particularly in processing and trading, bringing the total estimated to be directly or indirectly employed in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture to about 135 million in 2002. In addition, there are millions of other rural dwellers involved in seasonal or occasional fishing activities who are not recorded as “fishers” in official statistics. These people include many millions, especially in Asia and Africa, living in remote rural areas, where there are few other sources of alternative income and employment offering significant potential to contribute to livelihood strategies.

Fish is an important source of dietary protein, micro-nutrients and essential fatty acids for millions of the world's poor and contributes to their caloric intake.

While there is often very little precise information about the real contribution of small-scale fisheries to livelihoods and economies in developing countries, and although many small-scale fishing communities are poor and vulnerable, it is now widely acknowledged that small-scale fisheries can generate significant profits, prove resilient to shocks and crises, and make meaningful contributions to poverty alleviation and food security. In addition, while it is true that small-scale fisheries can overexploit stocks, harm the environment, and may generate only marginal profit levels, in some cases small-scale fisheries can have significant comparative advantages5 over industrial fisheries in terms of:

The Code generally provides principles and standards for both capture fisheries and aquaculture. It explicitly includes fish processing, trade in fish and fish products, fishing operations, research and the integration of fisheries into coastal management (Art.1.2). In its introductory paragraph, the Code “recognizes the nutritional, economic, social, environmental and cultural importance of fisheries ”. The Code describes one of its objectives as being to “promote the contribution of fisheries to food security and food quality, giving priority to the nutritional needs of local communities” (Art.2 (f)). It also recognizes the context of fisheries management as including “food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development ” (Article 6.2).

In light of this, and recent international attention to poverty and food security issues since the development of the Code, the twenty-fifth Session of the Committee on Fisheries, Rome, Italy, 24–28 February 2003, welcomed the suggestion that the FAO elaborate, in the context of the Code, technical guidelines for increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to food security and poverty alleviation.

The objectives of these Technical Guidelines are to provide a special focus on small-scale fisheries and their current and potential role in contributing to poverty alleviation and food security by expanding on relevant principles and standards set forth in the Code, and to make practical suggestions about ways to ensure that this role can be enhanced.

These Guidelines encompass both marine and inland fisheries, and are complementary to existing Technical Guidelines on Fisheries management (No. 4), The ecosystem approach to fisheries (No. 4, Suppl. 2), Inland fisheries (No. 6) and Aquaculture development (No. 5) that have relevance to small-scale fisheries.

It is also noted that FAO Fisheries Technical Paper No. 481 on the same topic as these Guidelines6 provides much additional background information and detail, especially in the form of examples, which may be of interest to the reader.

These Guidelines are directed at decision-makers, planners, and all those involved in developing and implementing policy relevant to small-scale fisheries, including fishers and fishworkers.

2 The Millennium Declaration contains the commitment to halve, by the year 2015, the proportion of the world's population whose income is less than one dollar a day.

3 FAO Fisheries Department. 2004. The state of world fisheries and aquaculture, 2004 . The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Rome, FAO. 153 pp.

4 Estimate based on a 1:3 ratio of primary employment to secondary employment in fisheries.

5 Kurien, J.; Willmann, R. 1982.Economics of artisanal and mechanized fisheries in Kerala. A study of costs and earnings of fishing units . Madras, FAO/UNDP Small-Scale Fisheries Promotion in South Asia Project RAS/77/044, Working Paper (34):112 pp. See comment footnote 52.

6 Béné, C.; Macfadyen, G.; Allison, E.H. [In press]. Increasing the contribution of small-scale fisheries to poverty alleviation and food security . FAO Fisheries Technical Paper. No. 481. Rome, FAO.

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