Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

We need to "have access to data to help understand small-scale fisheries"

ON 10 JUNE 2014, the member States of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) adopted the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (1) (“Guidelines”). 

To make these Guidelines effective, it is crucial that the FAO, governments, and civil society have access to data to help understand small-scale fisheries. Currently, catches from these fisheries are not collected separately, but are lumped in with industrial catches, even though they represent about one-quarter of global catches, and the majority of catches in many developing countries. To promote the transparency needed for good governance (2, 3), the FAO ought to request from member countries a report of catch data that distinguishes between industrial and small-scale fisheries

Many decades of debate have failed to produce one, agreed-upon definition of a “small-scale fishery,” but the modest variations in definitions between countries do not preclude efforts to gather global statistics. Just as the Guidelines do not impose a single definition of small-scale fisheries, each of the FAO’s member States could define their own small-scale fisheries, reflecting local realities. 

These changes would help to highlight the importance of small-scale fisheries and may also help governments that still treat these fisheries as a solution to demographic pressure and rural landlessness (4) to focus instead on their inherent value. 

Daniel Pauly1 and Anthony Charles2 * 
1Sea Around Us, 
Fisheries Centre, 
University of British Columbia, 
Vancouver, BC V6T1Z4, 
2School of Business and School of the Environment, 
Saint Mary’s University, 
Halifax, NS B3H3C3, 

*Corresponding author. E-mail: