Small-scale fisheries (SSF) communities have a unique bond with water, the element shaping their local culture and around which social and economic life revolves

About the Working Group

Presentation of the working Group

Small-scale fisheries (SSF) communities have a unique bond with water, the element shaping their local culture and around which social and economic life revolves. Those communities provide for proteins supply in their regions and represent an economic value all too often forgotten. Small-scale fisheries are indeed not limited to capture, but include a multitude of pre-harvest and post-harvest activities, thus supporting the entire social fabric of communities.

Nevertheless, despite their socio-economic relevance, small-scale fisheries are also subject to many threats, as the intensive industrial fishing, water pollution, industrial aquaculture and both land and ocean grabbing.

Through the space of alliance and coordination offered by the IPC Working Group on Fisheries, the major global civil society networks representing small-scale fisheries have joined together to bring the voice of their communities to international political decision-making bodies.

This advocacy work had made it possible to achieve one of the main achievements of the IPC when, in 2014, the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines) were endorsed by the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI).

The key role played by the IPC in developing the SSF Guidelines was acknowledged by COFI when, two years later, with the establishment of the FAO SSF Umbrella Programme and the Global Strategic Framework in support of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines (SSF-GSF), the IPC Working Group on Fisheries was identified to act as the SSF-GSF Advisory Group.





The Coordination Group of the IPC WG on Fisheries has the mandate to identify the priorities on which the WG is going to focus its work. It is composed of representatives from the civil society networks active in the WG, nominated for a two-years mandate, following gender- and regional-balance criteria.

The current members of the Coordination Group are:

  • Cairo Laguna – WFF, Nicaragua;
  • Editrudith Lukanga – WFF, Tanzania;
  • Margaret Nakato – WFF, Uganda;
  • Daouda Ndiaye – WFFP, Senegal;
  • Josana Pinto – WFFP, Brazil;
  • Azril Nizam Omar – WFFP, Malasya.
  • Chief Gary Harrison – IITC
  • Rochelle Diver – IITC
  • Alex Castillo – LVC



The Advisory Group of the SSF-GSF mechanism is composed of members nominated by the four networks part of the IPC WG on Fisheries (WFF, WFFP, IITC, LVC) who provide recommendations and ensure a coherent and participatory implementation and monitoring of the SSF Guidelines, in accordance with international Human Rights standards.

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The Regional Advisory Groups were then created in 2020 to ensure a coherent implementation of policies, strategies and actions in support of the SSF Guidelines implementation at the regional level, and to inform the AG SSF-GSF regarding the status of the implementation of the SSF Guidelines and of the fulfillment of the small-scale fisher and Indigenous peoples’ rights.

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Centro Internazionale Crocevia, along with FIAN International, ICSF, and the Transnational Institute (TNI) are responsible for the facilitation of the Working Group: contacts with other NGOs, Governments or institutions; logistics; advocacy and lobbying in Rome.


Participation in policy making processes

The FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI)

The FAO Committee on Fisheries is the only global inter-governmental forum where major international fisheries and aquaculture problems and issues are examined, and recommendations addressed to governments, regional fishery bodies, NGOs, fishworkers, FAO and the international community, periodically on a world-wide basis. Read more on our participation in the COFI 35.
The Sub-Committee on Fisheries Management is a space to provide essential technical and policy guidance on fisheries governance and management, in which the IPC organizations participate as observers. Read more on our participation in the 1st Sub-Committee on Fisheries Management

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The Global Strategic Framework in support of the implementation of the SSF-Guidelines (SSF-GSF)

The organisations of the IPC Fisheries Working Group are part of the Advisory Group of the SFF-GSF (AG), along with IFAD and OHCHR. The role of the AG is to raise awareness on the SSF Guidelines and promote a human rights-based approach, give inputs on the implementation of the Guidelines at the national level, as well defining the criteria for its monitoring through a participatory process.
Click here to access the COFI update on the implementation of the SSF-GSF [FAO Publication]

The UN International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA)

2022 is going to be the UN International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture, a unique opportunity to highlight the critical role of small-scale fisheries in the context of food sovereignty and environmental defence, as well as the many threats they are facing. IYAFA will be, therefore, an opportunity to put forward the SSF Guidelines and the need for their comprehensive implementation. The IPC Fisheries WG will engage with FAO to give thematic inputs and organise regional events of awareness-raising

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Sustainable Development Goal 14

SDG 14 focus on the conservation and the sustainability of the oceans. This objective cannot be achieved without the participation and the active protection of the small-scale fisheries communities. In particular, Indicator 14.b.1 is entirely dedicated to the necessity of an appropriate application of a legal/regulatory/policy /institutional framework which recognises and protects access rights for small-scale fisheries, of which the SSF-Guidelines represent the most important international instrument.

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The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

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The Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) of the FAO.

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The UN Decade on Family Farming (UNDFF)

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The Committee on World Food Security (CFS)

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Main issues

Marine genetic resources
Small-scale fisheries face many threats: industrial and destructive fishing practices, climate change, water contamination caused by mining, the proliferation of invasive species, large-scale infrastructure development, violence and persecution, water grabbing, privatization and exclusion of the natural resources on which they depend. Freshwaters and lakes (such as Atitlan, Guatemala) are affected to varying degrees by pollution that affects reproduction and causes genetic mutations. Women fishers, youth and indigenous peoples continue to be marginalized and struggle to participate meaningfully in policies for the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems and to adapt their livelihoods and preserve their traditional cultures and skills, with all the socio-economic impacts associated with these major disruptions. (in collaboration with the IPC Working Group on Agriculture Biodiversity)
Blue economy
Seen as the formula for combining food production, environmental protection and economic gain, the so-called “Blue economy” refers to a series of economic practices that try to integrate the exploitation of natural resources with the preservation of the local ecosystems. Nevertheless, this solution fail to address the main problems related to the capitalistic management of the maritime resources, feeding the illusion of a green – blue in the present case – growth. Moreover, the development of this economic paradigm, and the practices it contains, has been done without the participation, or even the consultation, of the small-scale fisheries communities. Their ancestral knowledge is not valorized, nor are their traditions and their spiritual link with the ecosystems they are part of, both sacrificed to the altar of the economic gain.
Ocean grabbing
Defined by former UN Special Rapporteur for Right to Food Olivier De Schutter as a set of practices regrouping access agreements that harm small-scale fishers, unreported catch, incursions into protected waters, and the diversion of resources away from local populations, ocean grabbing is a major threat to our oceans. If unchallenged, it could lead to the significant impoverishment of the fishing reserves and the destructions of ecosystems. Small-scale fisheries communities are particularly affected, as they have to face international agreements systematically diminishing their exclusive fishing areas, compromising their survival and the culture that goes with it. The effects are not limited to the catch itself, as the also affect the complex and rooted post-harvest value chain that develops along the community, and in which women play a crucial role.

In the last decades, aquaculture has become the main source of aquatic food. This practice can also be found among local communities, yet it is with the development of the fisheries industrial sector that aquaculture has become an intensive breeding system. If carried out on a large scale and capital-intensive perspective, the result could be the exclusion of the small-scale fisheries from the market. Moreover, the nutrients needed for the intensive aquaculture are the result of intensive fishing or intensive GMO’s agriculture such in the case of soya, colza and sunflower.

Inland fisheries
Too often neglected in the international discussions, the internal waters fisheries provide work more than 60 million people and nutrition for their communities. Most of the internal waters fishery is located in developing countries, while its totality is practices through artisanal methods. Yet, despite his significant importance in certain regions, the effects of land grabbing and the direct and indirect pollution of the waters by extractive and industrial practices seriously endanger this kind of fishery.

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IYAFA, 2022 International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Acquaculture

We, the Fisheries Working Group of IPC, have taken part in the launch event of this important year, 2022 will be our year!
The IPC will work hard to use this moment to shine a light on the the requests coming from small-scale fishing communities all over the world! We want governments to integrate as soon as possible the Voluntary Guidelines on Small-Scale Fisheries in their national legislations, to give back rights and dignity to fishing communities all over the world. Seize the opportunity and take a step forward!


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A group fighting for the right to food

IPC is represented by the Nyéléni Food Sovereignty Movement. Nyéléni ECA is a political and social alliance of grassroots, community based movements and organizations, representing small-scale food producers.

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