Social Protection

Social protection and Fisheries

The small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sector reports high levels of poverty and vulnerability, which  stem from its marginalization at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.

While there is limited disaggregated data on the percentage of poor people in the sector, approximately 90 percent of the workers are involved in small-scale fisheries where poverty is most prevalent. 

The small-scale fisheries sector is characterized by limited productive assets and inputs, and by low levels of productivity. Low productivity is often due to the structural economic and social barriers that hinder access to markets and economic opportunities, which thereby affects their income and well-being. 

Small-scale artisanal aquaculture is often characterized as a self-employment activity that lacks productive assets and resources, which, in turn, impede productivity and sustainability. 

Poverty in the sector is intricately linked to food insecurity and malnutrition as well as to the informality of working arrangements. It is also rooted in dynamics of systematic exclusion where small-scale fishery and aquaculture-dependent communities are excluded from access to basic services and social guarantees, secure tenure rights, and participation in decision-making processes.

In this context, social protection can play a key role in supporting the development of fisheries and aquaculture-dependent communities by reducing their vulnerabilities and helping them manage risks more effectively.

To achieve these goals, social protection needs to be designed to meet the specific needs of the sector and of the rural poor. Through its three pillars - social assistance, social security and labour market interventions - social protection can not only help reduce poverty, food insecurity and hunger, but also foster sustainable fisheries management and resilient livelihoods.

FAO’s programmes and instruments including the Blue Growth Initiative, the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries recognize and emphasize the importance of social protection in fisheries and aquaculture sector.

FAO is working to support member countries in designing and implementing social protection programmes with the goal of reducing rural poverty, increasing resilience among the communities dependent on fisheries and improving natural resource management.

To this end, FAO is building evidence on the socio-economic and environmental impacts of social protection mechanisms and programmes, such as cash transfers and unemployment benefits; the importance of increasing access to shock-responsive social protection; the economic and productive impacts of social protection investments; and on programme design and implementation.

FAO is also working in the implementation of programmes to expand the coverage of social protection and to build countries’ capacity to implement the international instruments that call for the expansion of social protection to the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

Did you know?

  • The SocPro4Fish project is the social protection component of the “Responsible use of Fisheries and Aquaculture Resources for Sustainable Development Project” and seeks to increase institutional capacities for making available, implementing and monitoring social protection programmes, including shock-responsive and gender-sensitive social protection for fishers, fish-workers and fish-farmers.
  • The project recognizes that social protection has been a key response adopted by governments to alleviate the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 restrictions for fishery-dependent communities and seeks to turn shock-term responses into long-term social protection strategies that support the development of fisheries and aquaculture-dependent communities
  • The SocPro4Fish project aims to generate evidence on designing and implementing sustainable social protection schemes in the fisheries and aquaculture sector that address the needs of the poor and vulnerable and converge with fisheries management policies to increase ecological and socio-economic benefits