About Small-scale Fisheries

About Small-Scale Fisheries


What are small-scale fisheries? 

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, "Artisanal, or small-scale fisheries, are traditional fisheries involving fishing households (as opposed to commercial companies), using relatively small amount of capital and energy, relatively small fishing vessels (if any), making short fishing trips, close to shore, and mainly for local consumption. They can be for subsistence or commercial." However, there is no single definition that is able to capture the diversity and complexity of what constitutes small-scale fisheries. 

International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022)

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2022 the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022). “IYAFA 2022 aims to focus world attention on the role that small-scale fisheries, fish farmers and fish workers play in food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource use - thereby increasing global understanding and action to support them.”

Learn more here: IYAFA 2022

Why are small-scale fisheries important?

In 2012, the World Bank published a report "Hidden Harvests - The Global Contribution of Capture Fisheries" that highlights the importance of small-scale fisheries.

Some of the key findings from the report: 

  • Approximately 120 million full-time and part-time workers are directly dependent on commercial capture fisheries value chains for their livelihoods
  • "Over half of the catch in developing countries is produced by the small-scale sub-sector, and 90 to 95 percent of the small-scale landings are destined for local human consumption."
  • "Subsistence fisheries are a large economic activity and livelihood component of rural communities, but the numbers of subsistence fishers at the global level and the importance of fish to such households are poorly quantified."
  • "Large-scale fisheries land more fish, but small-scale fisheries produce more fish for domestic human consumption."

This report is currently being updated and revised in a follow up study, Illuminating Hidden Harvests (IHH). The IHH study “delves deeper into the social, environmental, economic and governance contributions of marine and inland small-scale fisheries at global and local scales.”

Read more about the IHH study here: Illuminating Hidden Harvests Brief 

Learn More...

A number of other platforms and networks, many of whose resources can be found within the Resource Library, exist that provide a wealth of additional resources, research, and news of particular interest to small-scale fisheries. Below are a few of these platforms and what you can find there.

The latest news on small-scale fisheries

Research on small-scale fisheries

  • Visit Too Big To Ignore
    • Too Big To Ignore is a global research network and knowledge mobilization partnership that focuses on addressing issues and concerns affecting viability and sustainability of small-scale fisheries.
  • Visit WorldFish
    • “WorldFish is an international, nonprofit research organization that harnesses the potential of fisheries and aquaculture to reduce hunger and poverty.” 

Catch data and spatial information on small-scale fisheries

  • Visit Sea Around Us
    • Sea Around Us presents “fisheries and fisheries-related data at spatial scales that have ecological and policy relevance.”
  • Visit Information System on Small-scale Fisheries (ISSF)
    • ISSF is an interactive repository of information that helps you learn about SSF around the world. Explore and export data, maps, and profiles of different SSF. 

Scientific information on fish species

  • Visit FishBase
    • FishBase is a global biodiversity information system on finfishes. Explore information on over 33,000 fish species. 
  • Visit FishNutrients
    • FishNutrients is part of the FishBase database, it predicts the nutrient composition of finfish species to develop fish nutrient profiles that can be used to inform national dietary guidelines and aquatic resource governance.

Technology use in small-scale fisheries

  • Visit ICT4Fisheries
    • ICT4Fisheries works to promote “broader, international cross-learning and collaboration among stakeholders developing information and communication technology solutions for small-scale fisheries across the globe.” 

Laws and Regulations

  • FAOLEX Database
    • "FAOLEX is a comprehensive and up-to-date legislative and policy database, one of the world's largest online repositories of national laws, regulations and policies on food, agriculture, and natural resources management.” To find fisheries and aquaculture laws and regulations from a specific country, start here