Social issues have become a major concern in fisheries, particularly regarding cases of labour rights violations and human rights abuses, which have been found at different stages of the fisheries value chain. Besides, the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a public health crisis associated with an on-going economic one linked with different measures taken by countries to contain the rate of infection, such as home confinement, travel bans and business closures, among others.

During the pandemic, fish supply chains have been disrupted or deeply altered, causing impacts not only in the demand, market access or logistics but also generating multi-faceted consequences on fish workers, small-scale fishers, fish farmers, fish companies, restaurants, retailers, among others. These impacts were global, causing changes in employment and business orientation in both developing and developed countries.

As a result, governments, the industry, academia, association of small producers, among others, are trying to address current weaknesses, seeking remedies and solutions on how to cope with the current crisis. Efforts are being made to enhance the sector despite the difficulty of the current situation that the world is facing.


In line with earlier editions, the Dialogue will continue to focus on promoting human and labour rights along the fish value chains in the fisheries and aquaculture sector. This year's edition will put a special emphasis on social problems associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2020 Vigo Dialogue aims to raise awareness of the situation faced by fish workers and the industry due to the pandemic. In addition, the Dialogue will allow FAO to continue its inclusive collaboration with relevant stakeholders, by providing a clear outline of the major challenges on social issues in fish value chains, including gaps and key elements, to support the ongoing activities associated with FAO’s mandate on social responsibility. 


Institutionally, the FAO 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. Sessions of this Sub-Committee, with the participation of all FAO Member countries, take place every two years.

In 2017, during the COFI:FT Session in Busan, FAO Member countries 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 in order to improve the implementation of existing instruments.

In 2018, during the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), the most important and high-level global body to debate policies involving fisheries and aquaculture, it was indeed recommended by Member countries to FAO the development of guidance on social responsibility, in cooperation with relevant stakeholders, including industry and fish worker associations.

Following this request, in 2019, FAO conducted four multi-stakeholder consultations worldwide – the Agadir, Brussels, Rome and Shanghai Dialogues – in order to receive inputs, comments, suggestions and feedback from relevant actors of the fisheries and aquaculture sector on the work being developed. Participants representing trade unions, governments, NGOs, academia, civil society, industry, and international organizations, among others, attended these dialogues. In addition, FAO created an online public consultation on the FAO GLOBEFISH website based on a preliminary document to get inputs from a wider audience. This public consultation received more than 700 comments and feedback.

In 2019, during COFI:FT Session in Vigo, Member countries recommended FAO to provide specific information of the major challenges, referencing the relevant existing international instruments and tools, as well as the identification of key stakeholders – including their roles, core competencies and mandates – associated with any identification of other ongoing work and processes on social aspects in fisheries.

In addition, FAO also continues to work incessantly towards the three pillars of sustainability. In one recent action, through the Blue Ports Network initiative, the economic dimension, together with social and environmental activities linked to ports, are being enhanced, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year the Dialogue will be virtual and replicated in different time zones to allow inclusive participation around the globe.





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