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In recent years, the international community has reviewed on several occasions issues related to small-scale fishing communities, including their low profile in national policies and fisherfolks’ vulnerable and precarious living and working conditions. It has also recommended practical strategies for creating an enabling environment to better fisheries livelihoods and increasing this sector’s contribution to poverty alleviation and food security.

Supported by recent Sessions of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), the Fisheries and Aquaculture Department has increased its inter-disciplinary efforts aiming at overcoming main constraints affecting the small scale fisheries sector.

Increasing the profile of small scale fisheries through information

The FAO Strategy for improving information on status and trends of capture fisheries adopted by COFI in 2003 recognizes that many small-scale fisheries are not well monitored and awareness needs to be raised on the importance of monitoring these fisheries. Being under-represented in current fisheries status and trends information, these fisheries are not adequately considered in the development of plans and policies for fisheries. The following project activities address this concern:

  • Comparison of key indicators between small-scale and large-scale fisheries (Big Numbers Small Numbers project)  
  • Building an information system infrastructure enabling to gather, archive, update and disseminate Information on status and trends of fisheries and their management (Fishcode-STF project)
  • Development of comprehensive assessment methods for small scale fisheries (Fishcode-STF project)
  • Use of local knowledge in Ecosystem Approach to small-scale fisheries management, with a view to demonstrate the validity of using local knowledge in fisheries management in data poor situations (inland fisheries)

Develop optimal approaches for assessing the resources and fisheries in high diversity, data-poor situations for the provision of management advice on multispecies fisheries (marine fisheries)

At its 27th Session (2007), COFI expressed its support for a strategy of action aimed at bringing together responsible fisheries with social development to strengthen capacity and incentives of fisherfolk to invest in defending their fishing rights. The Department is active on the following areas which match the principles supported by COFI.

Securing sustainable resources use for present and future generations, and demonstrating value of  resources

COFI (2007) supported principles: addressing over-exploitation that threatens resource sustainability and the flow of benefits from fisheries to the wider economy is the priority objective of a shift towards rights-based fishing. As well, defining rights to fish, the rights of present and future generations to benefit from the resources should be included. Building the value of the resources should be an explicit objective of fisheries management in the small-scale sub-sector.

On-going field projects:

  • Aquatic biodiversity in rice based ecosystems of the Lao PDR, in order to determine the importance of aquatic biodiversity from rice-based ecosystems for nutrition and livelihood of the rural population;
  • Fisheries enhancements especially stocking in culture based inland fisheries;
  • Improve management and governance of transboundary fish stocks in inland waters
  • Sustained livelihoods of fishers by diversion of fishing capacity from already overexploited inner reef to under exploited deep slope resources

Managing transition to rights-based approach including access to resources, markets and social empowerment

COFI (2007) supported principles:

A rights-based approach, in defining and allocating rights to fish, would also address the broader human rights of fishers to an adequate livelihood and would therefore include poverty-reduction criteria as a key component of decisions over equitable allocation of rights, including in decisions over inclusion and exclusion, gender equality, and the protection of small-scale fishworkers’ access to resources and markets. It would also include addressing deficiencies in fishing people’s rights of equitable access to health care, education, justice and the rule of law. Transition to rights-based fishing requires relationships between fishing rights holders and duty-bearers (such as governments) to be transparent and based on mutual trust and accountability. This requires empowerment of fishing communities, both through their social inclusion and building their capabilities. There is a specific need to protect the poor from adverse impacts of the transition to rights-based fisheries management.

On-going field projects:

→ On protection of small-scale fishworkers' access to resources:

  • Expert Consultation on Access Regulations and the Sustainability of Small Scale Fisheries in Latin America
  • Improving tenure security for the rural poor through development of RPOA-Capacity for Lake Victoria

→ On improving market access for groups and cooperatives

  • Assisting women self help groups and cooperatives to get better market access for their products
  • Sustainable development of Mediterranean small-scale fisheries ( Morocco and Tunisia ) through valorisation of the fish chain and promotion of fishers’ organizational systems.
  • Improving Marketing Efficiency of Artisanal Fisherman in Central America and Southern Mexico

→ On improving small-scale fishermen livelihoods

  • Safety at Sea for Small Scale Fisheries in Developing Countries
  • Cleaner fishing harbors

Increased sectoral integration of small scale fisheries for maximized contribution of fisheries to poverty alleviation.

COFI (2007) supported principles: in countries where fisheries make significant economic contributions, integrating responsible fisheries policies with wider poverty reduction policies, such as Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers, is a necessary condition to achieve inter-sectoral policy coherence and maximise the contribution of fisheries to meeting poverty targets such as the Millennium Development Goals. It is also important for ensuring that fisheries agencies receive a fair allocation of central and local government budgets.

On going project activities at global level:

  • Policy options to enhancing SSF contribution to poverty alleviation and food security
  • The role of inland fisheries in poverty alleviation, with review of current management practices in inland fisheries and how they impact on poverty status and livelihoods in rural communities. Identify ways in which inland fisheries can be better and more systematically integrated into broader natural resources management frameworks and policies.

On going projects at national level:

  • Maximize fisheries sector returns through increased sectoral integration in national development programs.  

As part of the above mentioned Strategy, the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department will organize a broad-based international conference focussing specifically on small-scale fisheries.

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