Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries
in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication

Illuminating Hidden Harvests: The contributions of small-scale fisheries to sustainable development

Providing new evidence to drive positive policy change

Illuminating Hidden Harvests is a global initiative of FAO, Duke University, and WorldFish to generate and disseminate new evidence about the benefits, interactions and impacts of small-scale fisheries to inform policy and practice.

The initiative helps to inform all levels of policy-making processes and contributes to empowering fishing communities, their organizations, and advocates to make a strong case for productive, sustainable and equitable small-scale fisheries.

In this way, the IHH initiative supports the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication and progress towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

A key output of the IHH initiative is a major report, which provides a snapshot of the diverse contributions of small-scale fisheries globally. The report—which draws on diverse data sources, 58 country case studies, and 104 government questionnaires—represents a novel, multidisciplinary approach to assess and understand small-scale fisheries.

The IHH initiative has been funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Oak Foundation and CGIAR Trust Fund, with support from the CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems.

Fishes caught from the rice fields system support the livelihoods of many Cambodian communities. Selling fish at homeplace, this has a direct impact on families income generation. Tramper CFR main pond. Pursat. ©WorldFish Cambodia/Fani Llauradó

What are “hidden harvests”?

In many instances, small-scale fishery activities are informal and not counted. And because small-scale fisheries are diverse and dispersed, fully measuring their contributions is difficult. Often, information on small-scale fisheries (such as catch, employment, nutritional contribution, and governance arrangements) is not included nor disaggregated in official statistics—neither is it explicitly accounted for when designing national, regional, and global policies. As long as data on small-scale fisheries remains “hidden”, they will continue to be marginalized in policy-making processes, decision making and management.

Answering key questions

The report answers key questions about the social, environmental, and economic contributions, and governance arrangements of marine and inland small-scale fisheries at global and local scales. 

What is the profile of nutrients provided by SSF globally that are important to human health?

How does SSF provide physical and economic access to food for urban and rural people?

How does SSF contribute to the diets and growth of rural children in the critical window of the first 1000 days of life?

How can national information systems for fisheries be improved to reflect their diverse contributions of SSF to development?

What is the contribution of SSF to global fish catch?

How are SSF characterized in terms of fishing fleets, gears and species composition of the catch?

How efficient are SSF in catching fish?

What are the impacts of SSF on ecosystems, vulnerable species and GHG emissions and how can these be minimized?

What is the scale of the economic benefits generated by SSF, measured in total revenues from the catch?

What is the total employment in SSF?

What is the total number of livelihoods dependent on SSF?

How much of SSF catch is exported?

What does the policy framework governing SSF look like and how well-aligned is it with the SSF Guidelines?

What are the main management tools used to govern SSF and how much catch is governed through them?

How is access governed in SSF and what is the progress toward SDG14.b, which highlights small-scale fishers’ rights to access resources?

What formal rights do fishers have to manage SSF and how much catch is governed through devolved rights to fishers?

Where are women missing from SSF data and why?

How and how much do women and men contribute to and benefit from SSF?

What, where, and how do women and men fish?

What are the challenges and opportunities for gender inclusive SSF governance?