Increasing the visibility of artisanal small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers

The United Nations declared 2022 the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture. As an official supporter of the initiative, IIED set out to focus global attention on the importance and the role played by small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers.

January 2021 - March 2023
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
Boats tied to the port.

Octopus trap fishing vessel in Fuzeta, Algarve, Portugal (Photo: copyright Cristina Pita, IIED) 

Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture are crucial to people’s nutrition, food security, sustainable livelihoods and wellbeing worldwide.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that 492 million people depend at least partially on small-scale fisheries for their livelihoods globally, mostly in low and middle-income countries, with hundreds of millions more employed in aquaculture and engaged indirectly.

The United Nations declared 2022 the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA) with the objective of increasing global understanding of the role that small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers play in food security, nutrition, poverty eradication and sustainable natural resource use.

IYAFA 2022 also sought to develop actions that support small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers, and enhance dialogue between different actors.

What did IIED do?

IIED supported the objectives of IYAFA 2022 by focusing actions on three fronts: connecting, communicating and influencing.

The institute brought together researchers, NGOs, governments, regional and international organisations, fish workers’ collectives, associations and networks to amplify scientific evidence and the voices of small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers.

We held a series of dialogue meetings (workshops) and 'Fish Night' events in order to connect these diverse stakeholders.

In collaboration with partners around the world, IIED co-created a series of infographics and animations to raise awareness on the importance of small-scale artisanal fisheries and aquaculture, the problems and concerns affecting small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers, as well as opportunities for a more sustainable future.

These events and knowledge products amplified scientific evidence and drew attention to the current and potential roles of small-scale fishers, fish farmers and fish workers in sustainable development. They helped to increase the visibility of the sector to the public, as well as to policymakers and decision-makers at local and international levels.

During IYAFA, we worked with a coalition of fisheries networks, businesses, NGOs and government in Cabo Verde to develop a winning solution to a competition launched by the Coastal Fisheries Initiative-Challenge Fund (CFI-CF) that is funded by the Global Environment Facility and led by the World Bank.

The solution, called ‘PescaLocal’ (Local Catch), aims to reduce pressure on over-exploited species by increasing consumer demand for less familiar species in local restaurants and hotels, and by connecting local small-scale fishers and fish workers (including women) to those hotels, which commit to paying a premium for this catch.

The solution connects the two most important segments of the blue economy in Cabo Verde (fisheries and tourism) and capitalises on the growing interest of tourists in eating sustainable seafood.

Looking ahead

Although IYAFA 2022 has come to an end, this initiative was only the beginning. Tough challenges remain and systemic action is needed. Take a look at this recording of our closing event for a conversation identifying concrete next steps for supporting small-scale fisheries and aquaculture.