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GLOBEFISH - Information and Analysis on World Fish Trade

Fish is one of the world’s most traded food commodities with millions of people depending on fisheries as a source of jobs, income and livelihoods. In 2016, FAO data indicates that 59 million people were directly engaged in the primary sector of capture fisheries and aquaculture. 

Numerous international and national initiatives are now calling for increased social responsibility and improvements of social and labour conditions in fisheries value chains. Such initiatives are increasingly supported by governments, non-governmental organizations, industry, certification schemes and international governmental organizations. 

Scope and Programme 

The COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade (COFI:FT) has a specific mandate to promote social sustainability in fisheries value chains, mainly the recognition and protection of human and labour rights in national and international value chains, and to collaborate with international partner organizations – such as International Labour Organization (ILO), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and others.

FAO: Progress made and next actions 

FAO Member countries through the COFI:FT session in 2017 recognized the complexity of addressing social issues relative to human and labour rights in fisheries value chains, recommending that FAO collaborate with interested partner organizations and stakeholders to develop a guidance document to assist fish value chain actors. This should seek to improve the implementation of existing instruments and measures that encompass responsible business conduct, human rights and international labour standards. 

At its thirty-third session in July 2018, the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) decided that the guidance on social sustainability should be developed in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, including industry and fish worker associations, building on experience from the development of the OECD/FAO – Guidance for Responsible Agricultural Supply Chains. This would help improve the sector and move towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

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