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Protein and nutrients for the poor

Small-scale fisheries is a major source of animal protein for millions of people. In many least developed countries of Africa and Asia, fish accounts for more than 50 percent of the total animal protein intake. Fish is also is the most important source of essential fatty acids, and a unique source of micronutrients often deficient in diets of vulnerable populations.

The small-scale fisheries subsector is characterized by its dispersed nature –  the poor and marginalized people who are involved with it as fishers or in the post-harvest chain – and its positive and negative links with the wider fisheries sector and the environment. 

Food security and small-scale fisheries

Food security is a fundamental dimension of poverty. People who are chronically poor usually lack access to adequate food. Malnutrition negatively affects people's working and learning capacity, and may affect vulnerable groups living just above the poverty threshold,  ausing them to enter the ranks of the poor. Eliminating hunger and malnutrition, therefore, is a precondition for the eradication of poverty.


Most small-scale fishers are in developing countries and many live in communities characterized by poverty and food insecurity. Small-scale fishing communities are faced with an array of serious problems, including overexploitation and depletion of resources, lack of alternative sources of employment, rapid population growth, migration of populations, displacement in coastal areas due to industrial development and tourism, pollution and environmental degradation and conflicts with large commercial fishing operations. However, small-scale fisheries are critical for food security and poverty alleviation in many countries.

At the global level, consumption of fish as food has doubled since 1973 and the developing world has been responsible for over 90 percent of this growth, much of it from small-scale fisheries, especially small-scale aquaculture but also freshwater capture fisheries. Fifty percent of all foodfish originates from small-scale fisheries, and almost all fish from small-scale fisheries is used for food.

The most direct contribution of fishing activity to food security at the household level is through consumption of the household’s catch. Certainly for many poor households engaged in full-time, seasonal or occasional small-scale fishing activities, such contributions are crucial to individual/household food security. The percentage of total household catch that is consumed by the household varies greatly, however, and may depend on both the level of commercialization in the fishery and the level of poverty in the household.


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