The state of world fisheries and aquaculture 2022


The International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022

The purpose of the International Year

The United Nations designates specific days, weeks, years and decades as occasions to mark events or highlight topics to promote, through awareness and action, its developmental objectives.25 In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2022 the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) and nominated FAO as the lead agency for celebrating the year in collaboration with other relevant organizations and bodies of the United Nations (United Nations, 2018).

The world faces many complex challenges, including hunger, malnutrition and diet-related diseases, an ever-growing global population that needs sufficient and healthy food and must reduce food loss and waste, and over-exploitation of natural resources, in addition to the effects of climate change and other major issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic. IYAFA 2022 highlights the importance of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture for food systems, livelihoods, culture and the environment. Given that artisanal fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers produce a significant portion of aquatic food,24 they can be key agents of transformative change for sustainable use and conservation of living aquatic resources – with positive ripple effects on food systems and nutrition security.

The objectives of IYAFA 2022 are to:

  • enhance global awareness and understanding of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture, and foster action to support its contribution to sustainable development, specifically in relation to food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and the use of natural resources; and
  • promote dialogue and collaboration between and among small-scale artisanal fishers, fish farmers, fishworkers, governments and other key partners along the value chain, as well as further strengthen their capacity to enhance sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture and improve their social development and well-being.

By elevating awareness of the role of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, IYAFA 2022 aims to strengthen science–policy interactions, empowering stakeholders to take action including building and strengthening partnerships. It showcases the potential and diversity of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture and highlights the benefits of facilitating partnerships and cooperation with fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers to achieve sustainable development of living aquatic resources. By sensitizing public opinion and governments and fostering the adoption of specific public policies and programmes, these subsectors and their communities can secure their rights and acquire best practices to operate in a sustainable manner.

IYAFA 2022 also serves as a springboard to further implement the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related instruments, in particular the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines; FAO, 2015a) and to take concrete actions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). IYAFA 2022 can also be a vehicle to support the 2021 Committee on Fisheries Declaration for Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Shanghai Declaration, both of which recognize the critical importance of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. As IYAFA 2022 falls within the United Nations Decade of Family Farming (2019–2028), the Year and the Decade will reinforce one another in providing greater visibility to small-scale artisanal fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers.

The global launch of IYAFA 2022 on 19 November 202126 was followed by events throughout the world such as the joint virtual launch of the three regional IYAFA 2022 committees for the Latin American and the Caribbean region. Uganda and Malawi held national launch events and a local launch took place in the United Republic of Tanzania. IYAFA 2022 encompasses many diverse initiatives, activities, actors and partnerships around the world and includes hundreds of activities and events27 on small-scale fisheries and aquaculture – for example, conferences and forums,28 journal special editions, webinar series, contests, and related communications materials (e.g. infographics and calendars) – to help achieve its objectives. The IYAFA 2022 support base is constantly growing, with leveraging partnerships and collaboration, diverse initiatives and actors.

The IYAFA 2022 Global Action Plan: seven pillars contributing to achieving the SDGs

The IYAFA 2022 Global Action Plan is structured around seven interconnected pillars addressing challenges and opportunities for small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to contribute to achieving the SDGs. It engages national administrations, fishers, fish farmers, fishworkers, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), private enterprises, development agencies and intergovernmental bodies (Figure 58).


SOURCE: FAO. 2021. International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 Global Action Plan. Rome.
SOURCE: FAO. 2021. International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022 Global Action Plan. Rome.

Pillar 1 – Environmental sustainability: Use biodiversity sustainably for the longevity of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture

In line with SDG 2 (Zero hunger), SDG 6 (Clean water and sanitation), SDG 14 (Life below water), SDG 15 (Life on land), Chapter 5 (Governance of tenure in small-scale fisheries and resource management) of the SSF Guidelines and the Global Plan of Action for Aquatic Genetic Resources (Box 9), IYAFA 2022 highlights the stewardship role of fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers in ensuring the responsible management and sustainable use of living aquatic resources and their supporting ecosystems.

Activities contributing to validating the need to ensure the right to access to natural resources for those working in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture include:

  • collection of case studies with the goals of providing advice to policymakers and increasing recognition of the role of small-scale fisheries actors in sustainable use and conservation;29
  • development of a handbook on the environmental stewardship role of small-scale fishing communities;
  • promotion of engagement and collaboration of fishworker organizations, CSOs and others working in the arena of small-scale fisheries and biodiversity30 – such engagement facilitates inclusive processes that balance sustainable resource use with small-scale fishers’ access and user rights (SDG Target 14.b);31
  • development of AquaGRIS, a new global information system for aquatic genetic resources, that can characterize and catalogue farmed types of aquatic resources used in small-scale aquaculture and act as a basis for developing equitable access and benefit-sharing measures; and
  • development of technical farming manuals that enable the adoption of best farming practices to secure decent livelihoods while practising environmentally friendly farming.

Pillar 2 – Economic sustainability: Support inclusive value chains for small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture

IYAFA 2022 highlights both the role that small-scale aquatic food producers play in achieving SDG 12 (Responsible consumption and production) and the ongoing challenges they face regarding economic performance, market access and social and environmental sustainability.

Enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of value chains and harnessing the potential of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture for sustainable development while ensuring that economic improvements go hand in hand with environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness is in line with Chapter 7 (Value chains, post-harvest and trade) of the SSF Guidelines and is at the core of the FAO FISH4ACP programme of the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States.

Pillar 3 – Social sustainability: Secure social inclusion and well-being of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture

SDG Target 1.3 calls on countries to implement nationally appropriate social protection systems, SDG 8 calls for decent work for all and SDG 10 calls for reduced inequality within and among countries. These are all issues that are highly relevant for people in the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture sector. Social protection policies and programmes have been proven to reduce poverty and food insecurity, stimulate investments in fishing and agriculture production, promote decent work, and positively impact local economies and communities.

COVID-19 has spotlighted the vital role of social protection in safeguarding the livelihoods and dignity of small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fishworkers and increasing their overall resilience (FAO, 2021g). Similarly, to advance decent work, FAO, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) joined forces to shape the fishery sector of tomorrow and promote safety and decent work in fisheries through the application of international standards (FAO, IMO and ILO, 2020). However, at the national level, most international instruments are not fully implemented, and the sector is still struggling with poor enforcement of labour legislation, infringement of small-scale fishers’ rights, the existence of child labour and barriers to access social protection.

Pillar 4 – Governance: Ensure effective participation of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture in building and strengthening enabling policy environments

In line with SDG Target 10.3,32 sustainable development of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture requires an enabling environment for ensuring equal opportunities and reducing inequalities as well as for achieving peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development (SDG 16).

IYAFA 2022 highlights the importance of establishing meaningful and transparent participatory processes for decision-making, resource management and market participation and ensuring secure access rights for small-scale fisheries and aquaculture to natural resources and services, especially as competition over such resources and power imbalances are increasing.

Pillar 5 – Gender equality and equity: Acknowledge that women and men in small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture are equals

It is fundamental to recall that gender equality is not only a human right, but a key factor in attaining sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. Women make up 40 percent of the actors throughout the small-scale fisheries and aquaculture value chain in a variety of roles, yet they disproportionately hold the least stable and lowest-paid positions, do not have equal participation in organizations and decision-making processes, are not supported by legislation and policy for equality, and do not have equal access to and benefit from resources, markets, technologies and services.

IYAFA 2022 supports progress towards meeting SDG 5 (Gender equality) and Chapter 8 (Gender equality) of the SSF Guidelines by working to ensure women’s empowerment through gender equality, improving the social and economic performance of the sector, and strengthening small-scale fishing and farming communities by fostering women’s roles as agents of change.

Pillar 6 – Food security and nutrition: Promote the contribution to healthy diets from small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture in sustainable food systems

In addition to direct contributions to sustaining food security and nutrition through provision of diverse aquatic foods to approximately 500 million people, small-scale fisheries provide livelihood opportunities and thus indirectly contribute to food security and nutrition, with the contribution even greater when considering also small-scale aquaculture.

IYAFA 2022 aims to raise the profile of the contribution of small-scale aquatic food producers to food systems and nutrition as small-scale fisheries and aquaculture produce around 40 percent of the global harvest and contribute an estimated 50 percent of the recommended nutrient intake of omega-3 fatty acids for nearly 1 billion women (FAO, Duke University and WorldFish, 2022).

Pillar 7 – Resilience: Increase the preparedness and adaptive capacity of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to environmental degradation, shocks, disasters and climate change

SSF and aquaculture are experiencing an increasing number of risks. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Paris Agreement recognize that climate change may be catastrophic for small island developing States (SIDS), least developed countries (LDCs) and other vulnerable states where small-scale fisheries and farming communities are located.

SDG Target 1.533 focuses on resilience in the context of climate-related extreme events and other economic, social and environmental shocks and disaster. Resilience is also a core feature of SDG Target 13.1 (Strengthen resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters in all countries).

IYAFA 2022 is advancing these SDG targets by promoting the implementation of the climate change and disaster risk elements of the SSF Guidelines and encouraging awareness-raising and capacity-building activities and job creation for SSF and aquaculture communities as part of COVID-19 recovery planning and building forward better. Cook, Rosenbaum and Poulain (2021) produced a guide to help policymakers, government agencies, development partners and CSOs design and implement fisheries-related policies and programmes addressing disaster risks and climate change in the context of human rights. Similarly, the online e-learning course, Fisheries and aquaculture response to emergencies (FARE),34 offers similar support and prioritizes men and women who are small-scale fishers and fish farmers.35

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

IYAFA 2022’s objective of enhancing global awareness, understanding and action to support the contribution of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture to sustainable development, food security and nutrition, poverty eradication and the use of natural resources requires the development of solid evidence highlighting the benefits, interactions and impacts of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture.

In preparation for IYAFA 2022, FAO, Duke University and WorldFish undertook the Illuminating Hidden Harvests (IHH) study (FAO, Duke University and WorldFish, forthcoming). The IHH study is based on a rigorous methodology and multidisciplinary approach that collected and synthesized information about small-scale fisheries. More than 800 experts contributed to 58 country and territory case studies covering 68 percent of global marine catch and 62 percent of global inland catch. A series of thematic studies address key topics such as environmental interactions, impacts of climate change, identity and indigenous peoples and small-scale fisheries, while the full research findings look holistically at small-scale fisheries by examining their environmental, social, economic and governance contributions while using gender as a cross-cutting theme.

Key findings (Figure 59) include:

  • Small-scale fisheries catch is estimated to be 37 million tonnes – or 40 percent of total inland and marine capture fisheries production.
  • About 90 percent of all those employed in capture fisheries operate in small-scale fisheries, including an estimated 21 million women.
  • Taking into account also subsistence activities, about 94 percent of all those engaged in employment and subsistence activities in capture fisheries operate in small-scale fisheries, including an estimated 45 million women.
  • Taking into account also household members, 492 million people depend at least partially on small-scale fisheries.
  • Nutrient values vary substantially among fish types – small fish are especially nutritious. Small-scale fisheries could potentially provide 987 million women globally with 50 percent of the recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids and 477 million women with 20 percent of the recommended daily intake of calcium, selenium and zinc.


SOURCE: FAO, Duke University and World Fish. Funded by: Sida, Norad, OAK Foundation and CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems.
SOURCE: FAO, Duke University and World Fish. Funded by: Sida, Norad, OAK Foundation and CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems.

The IHH data collection and collation process revealed the wide variability in government data collection on small-scale fisheries and, in many cases, the lack of information to support policymaking and decisions about these fisheries. Where data were collected, the capacity to analyse and interpret them was not always available or prioritized.

IYAFA 2022 and the IHH study results are triggers for transformational changes in the collection and analysis of data on small-scale fisheries. By building lasting in-country capacity for better data collection, analysis and dissemination in support of small-scale fisheries, the way fisheries and related livelihoods are monitored will better reflect the unique circumstances in which small-scale fisheries operate and help ensure that they are appropriately accounted for by policymakers.

Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture: contributing to food systems and nutrition security

It is well established that aquatic foods play a unique role in providing essential fatty acids, as well as a wider range of micronutrients and bioavailable animal proteins. They fill micronutrient gaps in the diets of many nutritionally vulnerable people in the developing world and contribute to lowering the risk of diet-related non-communicable diseases such as heart and cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol, stroke and diabetes. Consumption of aquatic foods improves the nutrient content of breastmilk and provides greater dietary diversity for pregnant and lactating women, improves cognitive development, and reduces stunting and severe acute malnutrition for infants and young children. Aquatic foods are also an integral part of healthy eating that is important in adolescence and adulthood (UN Nutrition, 2021).

Out of the seven priority areas for ending hunger and protecting the planet highlighted by the United Nations Secretary-General’s call for the United Nations Food Systems Summit, protecting equality and rights, sustaining aquatic foods, and ending hunger and improving diets,36 are highly relevant to IYAFA 2022. In this respect, small-scale fisheries and aquaculture can be key for sustainable and equitable food systems that deliver nutrition for all (Short et al., 2021; Golden et al., 2021; UN Nutrition, 2021).

IYAFA 2022 provides a unique opportunity to showcase these critical messages in connection with the Committee on World Food Security and to protect dependent communities, balance agricultural and fisheries policies towards more nutrition-sensitive investment, and prioritize diversified aquatic foods to support public health, thereby ensuring the role of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in sustainable and equitable food systems (UN Nutrition, 2021; Short et al., 2021).

Partnerships to advance the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries

The SSF Guidelines provide comprehensive recommendations on fisheries management, and the livelihood functions of small-scale fishers while also recognizing the important linkages between small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. They address social and economic challenges and opportunities along the value chain in addition to tackling access to resources, tenure rights and fisheries management, climate change and disaster risks. Gender equality is a cross-cutting issue and the need to empower women and make their role more visible is a key concern. These interrelated dimensions require cross-sectoral collaboration by a vast number of partners to ensure policy coherence, information and institutional linkages to achieve the desired results and impacts (Figure 60).


SOURCE: FAO. 2021. SSF Guidelines uptake and influence: A pathway to impact. Rome.
1 Based on a search of the SSF Guidelines in Google Scholar from 1 January 2014 to 31 December 2020.
2 Information compiled from various FAO reports and web page analyses conducted in early 2021.
SOURCE: FAO. 2021. SSF Guidelines uptake and influence: A pathway to impact. Rome.

Through IYAFA 2022, it is possible to share examples of how collaboration and partnerships can be key to securing sustainable small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, not only by illustrating what has been achieved but by inspiring new action for upscaling success stories (Box 13). Academics and research partners, regional organizations and NGOs, among others, are looking at ways and means to facilitate, connect, supplement, document and strengthen such efforts.

The role of governments

FAO Members have been creating the enabling environment for implementation of the SSF Guidelines, including the institutional and legal frameworks for participatory, inclusive and transparent processes for policy- and decision-making. IYAFA 2022 allows governments to demonstrate their commitments for responsible fisheries and aquaculture and overall socio-economic development.

Appropriate legislation and enforcement provide the strongest possible framework for inclusive, participatory fisheries governance and resource use and management. They can therefore be a tangible means to support small-scale fishers, fish farmers, fishworkers and their communities and foster their contribution to broader development goals, including the progressive realization of the right to food, poverty eradication, and sustainable resource utilization. Two guidance documents – a diagnostic tool for sustainable small-scale fisheries (ELI, 2020) and a guide to implementing the SSF Guidelines (FAO, 2020) – are available on how to appropriately amend or update legislation, supported by a related e-learning course. A new section in FAOLEX (FAO, 2022c) specifically devoted to small-scale fisheries is under development to inform and disseminate such reform processes.

Some FAO Members have adopted participatory processes led by multi-stakeholder national teams comprising representatives of governments, small-scale fisheries organizations, academia and NGOs to develop National Plans of Action in support of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines (NPOA-SSF). For example, the United Republic of Tanzania and Senegal have already launched their respective NPOA-SSF and have a coherent pathway towards more secure small-scale fisheries. Some countries are in the middle of consultations and assessments to facilitate such processes, while others have launched initiatives that focus on specific aspects of the SSF Guidelines. It is estimated that some 50 countries implement the SSF Guidelines in various ways, many with FAO support or through engagement with other projects, initiatives and organizations.

Partnerships among peers: small-scale fisheries organizations

Fishers and fishworkers, especially through their organizations, are main drivers of change and play a major role in the bottom-up and inclusive processes called for in the SSF Guidelines.

A key concept with respect to the effective participation of small-scale fisheries actors is empowerment: fishers and fishworkers – men and women, youth and vulnerable groups – need to have the capacity to take part in decision-making, access accurate information and know their rights. They also require structures where they are represented and have the space to participate in appropriate ways through collective action at the local, national, regional and global levels. For example, the Global Strategic Framework in support of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines includes a global Advisory Group with representatives from international small-scale fisheries organizations, and this has recently been complemented by regional advisory groups in key regions. Similarly, both the African Union’s initiative to establish non-state actor platforms for fisher, fish farmer and fishworker representatives and the African Women Network of Fish Processors and Traders are examples of empowering achievements, while the efforts of the African Confederation of Professional Organizations of Artisanal Fisheries developed a specific action plan for IYAFA 2022.

These global and regional networks need to be backed up by strong local and national representation. In the United Republic of Tanzania, the Tanzanian Women Fish Workers Association was launched in 2019 and is being supported to create district-level chapters to ensure true bottom-up processes by empowering more women to take part in discussions and raise their voices, for example through direct participation in a review of the Tanzanian fisheries law.

Academia and research, non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations

Many partnerships in research and academia are advancing the understanding of small-scale fisheries, providing invaluable input to the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. Between the 2014 endorsement of the SSF Guidelines and 2020, approximately 1 100 articles and reports were published referring to the SSF Guidelines. The global research network Too Big To Ignore (TBTI) remains a driving force: many of its members have published about efforts to implement the SSF Guidelines, while different partners are actively engaged in their implementation and/or contributing to the IYAFA 2022 celebrations (for example, through five regional TBTI congresses during the year).

An important role can be played by NGOs in supporting the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and promoting the sharing of information, experiences and good practices. For example, the Environmental Defense Fund, in collaboration with partners, established the Small-Scale Fisheries Resource and Collaboration Hub to provide an online space to share materials and engage.

Global and regional intergovernmental organizations and initiatives (including those outside the realm of fisheries) can reflect and call for the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in global and regional processes, thereby recognizing the positive contribution of the subsector to food security and nutrition, livelihoods and resource stewardship and promoting pathways for development that are more integrated and cross-cutting.

Monitoring for change

IYAFA 2022 marks the launch of a pilot monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) framework for the SSF Guidelines to assess progress towards the implementation of the SSF Guidelines’ objectives and recommendations (paragraph 13.4) and the involvement of the small-scale fishing communities in these monitoring efforts (paragraph 13.5).

This MEL framework is intended not only to monitor progress of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and highlight related gaps and challenges, but also to enable sharing of good practices, identify opportunities and inform future action. It is intended as a participatory tool to advance sustainable small-scale fisheries and the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. This will help to speed up collective learning, continue to build partnerships and realize the potential of small-scale artisanal fisheries while leaving no one behind.

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