Small-scale fisheries play a critical role in the livelihoods of millions of people around the world. This sub-sector is diverse and dispersed - small-scale fisheries operate across the globe in both marine and inland ecosystems. They serve as the backbone of local economies and are deeply rooted in cultural traditions and connection to place. Despite their importance to livelihoods, food security and nutrition, small-scale fisheries are frequently overlooked by policy makers and undervalued and unrecognized by society.
In 2023, the FAO, Duke University, and WorldFish published their report "Illuminating Hidden Harvests," a comprehensive study that analyzes the global importance of small-scale to sustainable development and food security.
Some of the key findings from the report:
- Small-scale fisheries produce 37 million tons of aquatic foods each year, roughly 40 percent of the global catch.
- In 2016, an estimated 492 million people were at least partially dependent on small-scale fisheries for their livelihoods. The 60 million with full- or part-time jobs in small-scale fisheries account for 90 percent of total fisheries employment worldwide.
- Approximately four of every 10 people engaged in small-scale fisheries through direct employment or subsistence fishing are women.
- Fish are rich in micronutrients that are essential for good health and development.
- Co-management between communities and governments is perceived to be implemented for 20 percent of the small-scale fisheries catch.
Recognizing the contributions of small-scale fishers is critical as countries work to adapt to climate change and meet the challenges of a growing population. Small-scale fisheries are essential to success: they are an integral part of food systems and local economies, however, small-scale fishers are some of the most vulnerable groups to watershed and coastal changes.
The Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries offers a path forward for sustainable fisheries and sustainable development.