Policy Support and Governance Gateway
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Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries

Capture fisheries support the livelihoods of over 120 million people. Small-scale fisheries produce two-thirds of catches destined for direct human consumption and provide 90% of the employment in the sector.

Supporting small-scale fishers, fish workers and their communities.

The sector faces multiple challenges, including: declining fish stocks; competition from other sectors (e.g. industry, tourism); few alternative livelihoods, weak representation and voice in resource management. 

FAO spearheaded the highly participatory process to develop the first international instrument dedicated to defending and promoting small-scale marine and inland fisheries, the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines). 

The SSF Guidelines promote a human-rights approach, which goes beyond the fisheries value chain to address gender, social development, employment, climate change, disaster risks and trade.  FAO is working with governments, regional fishery bodies, small-scale fishery organizations and other partners on their implementation. Find out more here.

Key policy messages

·        Large industrial fleets dominate fisheries management efforts and political interest. Policies need to refocus on addressing the needs and challenges of small-scale fisheries, which are a critical source of employment, livelihoods, food and nutrition for millions of coastal families and communities.

·        The SSF Guidelines, adopted by Member Countries in 2014, provide the global consensus on the principles, good practices and guidance to ensure small-scale fisheries are sustainable and benefit small-scale fishers, fish workers, their communities and society at large. Government ministries and policy makers need to now work on their implementation.

·        The SSF Guidelines advocate the need for collaboration between government agencies, small-scale fishery organizations, fishing communities and other stakeholders.  There is a particular need for improved inter-ministerial collaboration and policy coherence given that small-scale fisheries touch trade, environment, tourism, socio-economic development and gender issues. This is particularly pertinent in times of crisis. Small-scale fishers, fish workers and their communities are currently facing the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic which is affecting the entire value chain and the livelihoods depending on it. Today more than ever, countries should increase their collaboration to share promising practices and opportunities for a prosperous future of the sector.

·        Policies should seek to improve the data, definitions and information available on small-scale fisheries, particularly where catches go unreported and trade is informal, in order to better quantify the importance, monetary value and scale of this sector and enhance the analysis of related issues.

·        Countries need to address small-scale fishery issues in order to achieve many aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, and in particular target 14.b, within Goal number 14 on “Life below Water”, to “provide access for small-scale artisanal fishers to marine resources and markets”.

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