Connecting social protection with fisheries management and conservation

Access to effective social protection is limited in the fisheries sector. IIED is working with partners to develop a vision for social protection that enables and incentivises more sustainable and resilient fisheries, while addressing the needs of vulnerable men and women who depend on them.

Began October 2020
Annabelle Bladon

Senior researcher (fisheries), Shaping Sustainable Markets research group

Inclusive blue economy
A programme of work supporting resilient marine and coastal ecosystems and the millions of people who depend on them to thrive by aligning incentives with investments
In a broad river, a man sits in a small, narrow boat. Other similar boats are nearby, and poles are sticking up out of the water.

Traditional small-scale fisheries at the Brahmaputra river (Photo: WorldFish/Sourabh Dubey via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Fishers and fish workers – most of whom are small-scale workers living in the global South – face increasingly high levels of risk as overfishing, climate change and other human activities play havoc with their lives and livelihoods. 

Fisheries management and aquatic habitat conservation interventions should reduce these risks in the long term, but they usually impose social or economic costs on fishers and fish workers. 

These costs can undermine the legitimacy and impact of an intervention, particularly where governance is weak, and for the most vulnerable they can be insurmountable. This tends to result in low compliance with regulations and unsustainable or destructive fishing activities, which ultimately exacerbate the impacts of climate change and fuel poverty. 

Mechanisms such as compensation and payments for ecosystem services are increasingly incorporated into fisheries management and conservation interventions to mitigate these costs and incentivise behaviour change, but they do not typically reach the most vulnerable people. 

Social protection (social assistance and social insurance) and active labour market programmes help people – especially the most vulnerable – to manage risk and build resilience against shocks. But access is currently limited, particularly among informal workers and including most small-scale fishers and fish workers. 

As momentum builds globally to make social protection more universal and climate resilience, governments have an opportunity to leverage these systems, policies and programmes to enable and incentivise behaviours that support more sustainable and resilient fisheries, while also reducing poverty and vulnerability.

What is IIED doing?

Building on our previous work on economic incentives for sustainable fisheries in Bangladesh and Myanmar, as well as research with FAO on social protection in Mediterranean small-scale fisheries, IIED is exploring how social protection and labour market systems, policies and programmes can be extended and adapted to support fisheries management and conservation interventions. 

In collaboration with the World Bank’s Social Protection and Jobs Global Practice, IIED conducted a global stocktake of social protection and labour interventions in the fisheries sector.

This led to the development of a conceptual framework to guide policymakers and practitioners towards a more integrated approach to social protection, labour and fisheries management. 

The framework describes the social-ecological risks faced by fishers and fish workers and outlines the main potential pathways for expanding and adapting social protection and labour market systems, policies and programmes to enable and incentivise sustainability in the fisheries sector.

It also provides a set of recommendations on how to put this into practice. The framework has been summarised in an infographic.

Currently, IIED is working with the World Bank to complete country-level case studies that present challenges, opportunities, and lessons from five countries (Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, Costa Rica, Kenya, and Solomon Islands), which are at varying stages in terms of their efforts to connect social protection and labour market interventions with fisheries management.

Next, we will use these case studies to develop a toolkit that guides government officials (particularly ministries of fisheries, environment, social affairs, labour and finance) and practitioners on how to leverage social protection and labour market interventions to achieve positive outcomes for people, nature and climate.

We are actively seeking funding to generate evidence on the current and potential role of social protection, labour and wider economic inclusion policies and programmes in the fisheries sector.

We aim to promote cross-sectoral dialogue and sharing of best practices and to build the capabilities of governmental and non-governmental organisations to work together to implement an integrated approach. 

Additional resources

Infographic: Connecting social protection and fisheries management for sustainability, Annabelle J Bladon (2022), Project material

Video: Connecting social protection and fisheries management, World Bank presentation (May 2022)

Connecting social protection and fisheries management for sustainability: a conceptual framework, Annabelle J Bladon, Gunilla Tegelskär Greig, Yuko Okamura (2022), World Bank Social Protection and Jobs Policy and Technical Note

Social protection for small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean region – a review, FAO (2019)

Evaluating the ecological and social targeting of a compensation scheme in Bangladesh, Annabelle Bladon, Essam Yassin Mohammed, Belayet Hossain, Golam Kibria, Liaquat Ali, E.J. Milner-Gulland (2018), PLoS ONE 13(6): e0197809.

Blog: How social protection can support people and sustain fisheries, Annabelle Bladon and Yuko Okamura (May 2022)