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3 Conclusion

These Technical Guidelines deal with the complex and substantial challenge of enhancing the contribution that small-scale fisheries could make to alleviating poverty and improving food security. Drawing upon the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, they provide guidance on policies and measures which, if widely implemented, could be expected to result in many millions of fishers, fishworkers and their communities being able to improve their standard of living, escape from poverty and lead more secure and fulfilled lives. In addition, many other poor people in rural areas would indirectly benefit from the wealth created and food produced by small-scale fisheries. To achieve this, it is imperative that fisheries and other natural resources are not squandered, and that the benefits that flow from their use are equitably distributed. The biggest single contribution to achieving this goal probably lies in the empowerment of small-scale fishers and fishworkers within a context of transparent and open engagement through legally enforceable rights to aquatic resources, and with improved access to capital, markets and know-how.


Table 1 . The different dimensions of poverty alleviation in relation to small-scale fisheries, including the specific issue of vulnerability

 Poverty alleviationFishery as a source of vulnerability
Poverty reduction:
Fishery contributes to lift people out of poverty
Poverty and vulnerability prevention: Fishery contributes to maintain a minimum standard of living
Individual/ Intra-householdLivelihood support to other household members, particularly dependentsFishing income spent on children's'education, and building other household assets (e.g. farm inputs, investment in small enterprises for other household members to run)Household subsistenceFishing income contributes to household budget - expenditure on food, clothing and healthcareStrongly gendered roles and frequent absence of (migrant) male fishers may limit intra-household income distribution
Absence from home and fishing lifestyle may increase vulnerability of partners to HIV infection
Household level/ sectorGeneration of wealthEffective capture of fishery rent (capital accumulation) High level of commercialization
Access to effective market mechanisms Fish as cash crop for investment and diversification
Safety-net function (transient poverty)
Activity of last resort for the poorest (chronic poverty)
Reduce vulnerability and mitigates poverty effects
Food security through direct contribution (subsistence) but also fish as immediate cash-crop for safety-net
High occupational risk
Risks of losing physical assets
Local levelEngine for rural developmentIncreased demand for goods and services
Rise in wages and employment opportunities (income and employment multipliers)
Social-redistributive system (welfare)Alternative sources of income, food and/or employment.Unpredictability of the natural resource availability
Natural disaster risk Conflicts
National levelEconomic growthTrickle up to government through taxes and foreign exchange earnings (regional or international trade)Re-distributiveGovernment expenditure from fisheries-related tax and foreign exchange earnings on poverty alleviation measuresHigh susceptibility to macro-economic fluctuations

Table 2: Dimension of food (in)security

Food securityContribution to food security
LevelDirect contributionIndirect contribution
Individual/ household level (micro)Through subsistence. Assume the ability of the household to utilize the commodity through adequate non-food input, i.e. clean water, sanitation and health careThrough self-employment or wage
Domestic level (meso, macro)Direct contribution to national food security through effective commercialization or redistribution of national surplusIndirect contribution to national food security through foreign exchange earnings (food import)
Global (World)Limited nature of capture fisheries. Highlights the role that aquaculture and improved fisheries management and utilization will have to play in the future to ensure world fish food security
Food insecurityTemporal dimension
LevelTransitory insecurityChronic insecurity
Individual/household level (micro)Temporary break-down in the household's income (e.g. loss of employment, illness)Insufficient assets (e.g. education, labour, access to credit), lack of access to market opportunities
Domestic level (meso, macro)Temporary crisis (e.g. food price fluctuations); local or national crop failure, natural disaster, armed temporary or long term conflictsStructural meso or macro-economic failures (e.g. markets or balance of payment), inappropriate policies, armed conflict

Table 3: Policy objectives

Key policy objectivesPolicy “sub-objectives”Main emphasis on poverty reduction (PR), poverty prevention (PP) and/or food security (FS)
1. Environmental/ sustainability objectivesRational exploitation of resourcesIndirect emphasis/impact on PR and FS (and on PP to a lesser extent) through maintenance of resources for long-term exploitation
Provision/restriction of access rights
Appropriate/good data collection
Management of ecosystems
Compliance with international conventions
Effective MCS
2. Economic objectivesIncreasing value-addedPR
Promoting export earningsPR
Improved marketing arrangementsPR, FS
Technological provision and modernization of fishing methods (maximizing sectoral efficiency)PR
Adequate access to capitalPR, PP
Maximizing resource rent being collected by governmentPP
Economic diversificationPR, PP (through national redistribution)
Increasing incomes for rural fishing populationsPP, PR
Exploitation of under-utilized resourcesPR
Minimizing cost of managementPR, PP
3. Social objectivesMaximizing employmentPP
Ensuring food securityFS
Participation in the fishery by local peoplePP, FS
Support for fishing organizationsPP, PR
Capacity development and educationPP, PR
4. Equity objectivesProvision of access in certain areas or at certain times for certain groups (e.g. small-scale fishers, locals vs. foreigners)PP, FS
Assessment and consideration of customary rightsPP, FS
Utilization/landing of bycatchPR, PP, FS
Issues relating to genderPP, PR

Table 4: Coping mechanisms used in fishing-related communities/households to deal with vulnerability

Type of coping mechanismWithin the fisheries sector Outside of the fisheries sector
Ex-ante risk managementstorage of fishinvestment in livestock
diversification of fisheries assetsstorage of non-fish food items
early warning systems and advice on how to prepare vessels and gear for minimum losses, e.g. for hurricanesadditional cultivation
development of patron-client relationships to minimize transaction costs in the absence of insuranceuse of different cropping patterns
credit and improved market informationdiversification of assets
remittances by family members working away from the household expenditure of surpluses on assets that appear to be non-productive, e.g. housing, education, health as such assets may be beneficial from a preventative point of view in reducing vulnerability
Ex-post coping mechanismdebt/credit/loansdebt/credit/loans
expansion of fishing effort in terms of hours and/or areas fishedadditional cultivation
mortgaging and selling of fisheries related assetsemployment off-water
exploiting other common property resources, e.g. wild foods
mortgaging and selling of non-fisheries assets
 illegal fishing activity and non-compliance with gear, area and effort regulationsmigration and resettlement to non-fishing areas
migration and resettlement to other fishing areasreduced consumption of non-fish items
reduced consumption of fishdeferring medical treatment
sale of products into different markets 72mutual support through community and kinship ties
participation of other household members (typically women and children) in the labour forceparticipation of other household members in the labour force
extended family support

72  Analysis of the marketing chain in the United Republic of Tanzania showed that traders overcome seasonal oversupply in the rainy season by sale to markets for poultry feed, and export to Congo (Gibbon, P. 1997. Of saviours and punks: the political economy of the Nile perch marketing chain in Tanzania. Centre for Development Research Copenhagen Working Paper 97(3)).

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