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Decent Rural Employment

Fisheries and aquaculture

Fisheries and aquaculture provide livelihoods to around 820 million people worldwide. Estimating global employment in fisheries and aquaculture is nevertheless complex, due to the extensive number of pre-harvest, harvest and post-harvest activities associated with this sector. Jobs range from the production and sale of inputs (vessels, fishing gear, bait, etc.) to farming and harvesting, processing, marketing and distribution of fish. Fishing and aquaculture operations can be informal and small-scale as well as highly organized and industrial in nature.

Fish worker communities are often isolated in rural areas with little access to market information and infrastructure. High post-harvest losses of already low volumes of production are common due to poor handling and processing, as well as a lack of proper storage facilities and distribution technologies. As a result, many small-scale fishers and aquaculture producers are poor and often depend on unpaid family labour, including that of women and sometimes children. They face numerous obstacles in raising their productivity and income levels, including limited access to credit, knowledge and inputs. Whether employed in small-scale or larger operations, fish workers are particularly prone to occupational hazards.

Moreover, the fisheries and aquaculture sector is characterized by a high prevalence of informal work arrangements, under-employment and seasonal and casual employment. Protection of labour rights is weak and even when regulation exists, enforcement is poor. Limited organization of the majority of fish workers in unions, associations and cooperatives also hinders their influence over decisions concerning access and use of fishery resources. Finally, practices such as illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and the use of flags of convenience (FOCs) are closely linked with labour abuse, including exploitation of poor migrant workers.

The role of FAO:

Promoting decent work in fisheries and aquaculture is an important strategy that can lead to more effective and responsible fisheries management and aquaculture, while also improving livelihoods and food security. Improved working conditions in fishing and aquaculture can furthermore enhance responses to market demands and improve business through export and market access. The FAO Blue Growth Initiative recognizes the importance of ensuring that existing and future jobs in this sector are decent jobs, which will secure sustainable marine and freshwater resource management while also contributing to global economic and social development. FAO works with governments, civil society, private sector and other UN agencies to enhance the availability of jobs, including alternative employment, and to improve labour conditions along the whole fish value chain – from catch to markets.