Artisanal fisheries and aquaculture: an international year to review their value
Fishing is much more than the relationship between a commercial species and a fisherman. For Willard, who has been fishing on the shores of Lake Malombe (Malawi) for more than 40 years, fishing is his way of life. It is their cultural legacy and almost the only activity they can do to put food on the table. So, when the fish population began to decline in the lake, the whole town became alarmed. The reasons were obvious: logging, illegal fishing and climate variability were destroying their main source of food.
Willard is one of 492 million people who depend on small-scale fisheries for their livelihoods. To empower people like him and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2022 as the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture. Under the slogan “Small scale, great value”, it aims to give visibility to fishermen and fish farmers who usually carry out their activity in a family or community environment with limited levels of technology and low capital investment. In addition, it seeks to promote joint work between fishermen, fish farmers and other working people in harmony with nature.
FAO’s commitment to small-scale fishers is far-reaching. The organization has two projects in the Adriatic Sea —AdriaMed— and in the central Mediterranean MedSudMed—which are becoming an effective model of cooperation for sustainable resource use and species conservation. To these are added the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean project, which promotes the collection, processing and analysis of data on fish stocks; and the FISH4ACP initiative, focused on achieving food security and economic sustainability in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
Today, small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture account for 40% of the world’s fish catch. Through the International Year’s Global Plan of Action, FAO aims to put small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers at the centre of the international agenda and ensure a sustainable future for these important sectors by highlighting their role in food systems, livelihoods, culture and the environment.
The pillars of the action plan are:
- Promoting environmental sustainability to preserve biodiversity and the continuity of fisheries.
- Supporting value chains for artisanal fisheries and aquaculture in order to generate employment and offer more affordable products, thus promoting economic sustainability.
- Achieving social sustainability, ensuring social inclusion and the well-being of the sector.
- Ensuring governance so that workers collaborate on an equal footing in decision-making. This also includes collaboration with legislators and state agencies in the formulation and adoption of laws, regulations, policies, strategies, programs and projects.
- Recognising the equality of women and men working in small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture. According to FAO data, 4 out of 10 fishermen and fishery workers are women.
- Raising awareness of the sector’s contribution to food security and nutrition. Fish provides protein and macronutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, selenium and zinc.
- Increasing the resilience of artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to environmental degradation, natural disasters and climate change to ensure social inclusion and maintain the social, physical and cultural well-being of workers.
The Plan aims to inspire national administrations, non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs and CSOs), private companies, development agencies and intergovernmental bodies. But we, as consumers, also have a role to play. We encourage you to buy food from artisanal fisheries and aquaculture and, if you have the opportunity, to meet the people involved in their production to better understand their value for society.
Let us work together for a world in which small-scale artisanal fishers, fish farmers and fish workers are fully recognised. Will you join us?