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

In their own words: how ABALOBI, the Environmental Defence Fund, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation and the Environmental Law Institute are helping to implement the SSF Guidelines



How is ABALOBI supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines? 

ABALOBI strives to contribute towards thriving, equitable and sustainable small-scale fishing communities in South Africa and globally through our unique ‘touch and tech’ approach. Our mission inherently echoes the objectives of the SSF Guidelines. Through our work, driven by co-design processes with fishers, we are supporting the implementation of several aspects of the SSF Guidelines. More specifically, our central goal of supporting fishers through tech to be owners and users of their data, coupled with the development of equitable and transparent markets for traceable, locally sourced seafood, aims to shift fishers to a more equitable position in the value chain. Simply put, our ‘tech and touch’ approach addresses “information, research and technology” and our marketplace addresses the achievement of equitable and transparent value chains. We strive to streamline and integrate other key principles and recommendations of the SSF Guidelines? through our capacity building, fisher engagements and internal organisational development.


ABALOBI is facilitating the achievement of equitable, transparent and traceable value chains through the ABALOBI MARKETPLACE app. This digital platform allows users to track the entire value chain by scanning a unique QR code and enables fishers to sell their products directly to consumers, therefore shortening the value chain and improving profits.

The ABALOBI Fisher App, a digital logbook that can be downloaded on a simple smartphone is enabling fishers to record their catches, post-harvest activities, expenses and income. On their smartphone they also have access to basic analytics that offers a summary of their monthly activities. ABALOBI organises meetings with fishers to collectively review and analyse the information logged by a group of fishers to stimulate community entrepreneurship or co-management. Fishers can make informed decisions as individuals and collectively, they have proof of their livelihood at their fingertips and this data is addressing gaps in what is often regarded as a data-limited sector. Have a look at the ABALOBI documentary ‘Coding for Crayfish’, which explores the notion of rethinking sustainability through technology.

In December 2020, a crew member on a small-scale fishing boat was working on a migratory and commercial fishing boat and received R1800 (95 Euro) for 500Kg of Yellowtail. That’s approximately R3.50/kg (0.20Euro). He was working under difficult conditions, unsure of the price they would receive at the end of the day and desperate just to earn enough to cover their costs and feed their family. The yellow tail this fisher caught was likely sold to end consumers for 160 ZAR/kg.

Several days later this fisher was asked to join the crew on an ABALOBI-linked traditional linefish boat. The skipper of the boat paid the fisher R600 (32 Euro) for 15KG of Yellowtail, linked to a fair price whereby fishers connect directly with the end buyer. This fish was supplied to consumers via the fully traceable ABALOBI Marketplace.

How is the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines?

The Swedish Society for Nature Conservation (SSNC) was founded in 1909 and is a non-profit and member-based organisation. For decades, SSNC has been Sweden’s most influential environmental organisation and currently has over 230,000 members. In the late 1980s, SSNC expanded its work beyond Sweden and today we support and work alongside roughly 40 civil society organisations and networks in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and Europe. Being an environmental organization, SSNC puts great emphasis on the sustainable use and conservation of nature. However, as environmental issues, human rights and gender equality are tightly linked, all our work is guided by these principles and a firm belief in global solidarity. Fisheries – and particularly small-scale fisheries – have always played a central role in our global work. For the past 10 or so years, we have thus dedicated much of our support and work towards the development, adoption, and implementation of the SSF Guidelines. We see this instrument as vital not only for recognizing the important role of small-scale fisheries for food sovereignty and poverty eradication, but also as a major step towards a fairer, more equitable and environmentally sustainable use of the ocean.

However, although our support and joint efforts have resulted in some positive changes, the SSF Guidelines are still far from implemented. In too many countries, there is instead an increased focus on industrial sectors at the expense of both nature and small-scale fisheries communities. Further, in many parts of the world the space, in which CSOs operate, is shrinking while threats and violations are increasing. As SSNC believes that civil society is a central, democracy-strengthening agent for change, long-term organisational and operational support to civil society actors is therefore more important than ever. To help contribute to a strong civil society and speed up the implementation of the SSF Guidelines, SSNC therefore provides financial support for organisation and mobilisation, capacity-building, documentation and dissemination of information, campaigning, and knowledge exchange among and between coastal communities (women, men, youth) and fishers’ movements. In addition to direct financial and organizational support, we also engage in advocacy work at the national, EU (for example, through our membership to the Long-Distance Fisheries Advisory Council) and international level. Specifically, we push for greater recognition of small-scale fisheries in policy and towards greater coherence between the SSF Guidelines and other relevant legislation andpolicy strategies (e.g., the EU Common Fishery Policy and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements, Blue Growth, Biodiversity, and Global Development Cooperation strategies). We also support the GSF-SSF, and particularly the work and activities of CSOs.

Changes in policy and legislation take time but given the upcoming International Year for Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022 there is now a momentum. This is such an important year to come together and draw attention, recognition, and support to small-scale fisheries. SSNC will do its part by continuing to financially support CSO mobilisation, active participation, initiatives and activities, by joining hands with relevant actors, and by conducting advocacy work to stimulate action towards a robust implementation of the SSFGuidelines at all levels.

How is the Environmental Law Institute supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines?

Since its creation in 1969, the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), a research and education centre, has contributed to strengthening environmental governance in more than ninety countries. In early 2021, ELI published its Law and Governance Toolkit for Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries, a detailed guide that provides model legal language (in English) for the implementation of a number of policy recommendations contained in the SSF Guidelines. Specifically, the Toolkit focuses on the creation of fisheries co-management mechanisms and institutions, as well as on the main rights that need to be put in place to ensure effective co-management, including the distribution of exclusive fishing rights, protection of tenure rights, and the creation of spatially defined areas reserved for the SSF fleet.

The Toolkit aims to provide specific, easily accessible information on how to implement regulatory reforms that support a more sustainable SSF sector. Bridging legal research and country implementation, the Toolkit was developed in close cooperation with Parliamentarians for Global Action, an international network of democratically elected lawmakers promoting human rights and security.

For more information on the SSF Law and Governance Toolkit, please visit http://eli-ocean.org/fish/small-scale-fisheries-policy-reforms/

How is the Environmental Defense Fund supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines?'

The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is a champion of healthy oceans that help sustain the planet, feed the world, alleviate poverty and support fishers and their communities, even in the face of climate change. We work with fishing communities, governments, scientists, and others in Asia, Latin America, the United States and Europe to support sustainable, equitable and climate resilient fisheries. Our work with partners in small-scale fisheries supports the SSF Guidelines implementation by: advancing sustainable resource management and secure tenure (SSF Guidelines Chapter 5) through science-based, participatory approaches (SSF Guidelines Chapter 11); supporting climate resilience (Section 9); advancing fisheries policy through cross-sectoral collaboration (SSF Guidelines Chapter 10); and developing capacity (SSF Guidelines Chapter 12) for sustainable and climate-resilient fisheries.
In Belize, for example, a network of local partners, and community-led groups, with the support of EDF established a nationwide Managed Access system, which gives fishers secure rights to fish in designated zones. EDF and partners engaged fishing communities throughout the design of the Managed Access system and helped organize local committees of fishers and other stakeholders to co-manage fishery resources using science and local knowledge. The Committees establish harvest controls that keep stocks healthy and use a system of licenses and boat color-coding to ensure tenure rules are followed. Our work in Belize is representative of EDF’s approach – ensuring healthy, resilient fisheries and communities through secure fishing rights and participatory, science-based management. Tools to support this approach, as well as online courses, are available to all for free.

We have also made these and other resources available on the new Small-Scale Fisheries Resource and Collaboration Hub (or “SSF Hub”), in support of the SSF-Global Strategic Framework. A coalition of partners from small-scale fishing and conservation communities, including EDF, developed this online global community to inspire and empower small-scale fishers, fish workers, and their communities, elevate their profile and strengthen these fisheries for a better future. This newly launched site enables people to connect and collaborate across 20 languages and access online discussion forums, regional and topic-based groups, and practical tools and case studies. As Secretariat for the Hub, EDF will maintain this platform so that it evolves and adapts to meet the needs of small-scale fishing communities and their allies.

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Sailboat with colour coding in Belize. ©Tony Rath