Small-scale fisheries make key contributions to food security, sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction yet, until recently, governments, multinational institutes and the private sector has focused on the commercial fisheries sector.

This has left the small-scale fisheries underdeveloped and its contribution to the development of the economy under-valued.

Small-Scale fisheries provide nutritious food for local, national and international markets and generate income to support local and national economies.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture organisation says that the small-scale fisheries sector, including fishing and fish farming, is estimated to employ some 37 million people and that an additional 100 million people are estimated to find employment in associated SSF activities. (1)

The economic value of small-scale fisheries has been poorly quantified and the contribution of this sector to food security and economic growth has over the years been undermined.

In Africa alone, over 10 million people are supported by fisheries and about 227 000 people in the West and East of Africa are employed by the inland small-scale fisheries sector.  (2)

The South Africa Small-Scale Fisheries policy gives formal and legal recognition to artisanal fishing communities and is the first step that acknowledges the significance and the potential economic value of small-scale fisheries.

“The policy offers the potential to reconfigure fisheries governance, stimulate sustainable co-management of resources, and develop local economies in coastal communities through value chain development and complementary livelihoods,” commented Serge Reamaekers of the Department of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Cape Town.

The policy says: “Experience suggests that for the large majority of households involved in fishing activities ( full time or seasonal) in developing countries, fishing and related activities have not generated high economic returns, but instead have helped them to sustain their livelihoods and have prevented them falling deeper into poverty”. (Policy for the Small-Scale Fisheries Sector in South Africa – 1.4.1, June 2012)

There is not much research papers available on the economic value of SSF in South Africa but the statement above can be challenged by looking at a number of researches done in different parts of African countries where fisheries (small-scale fisheries) generates an average of 82% of all household income.

For example in 2010, Madagascar small-scale fisheries extracted an estimated 5524 metric tons (t) of fish and invertebrates primarily from coral reef ecosystems, of which 83% were sold commercially, generating fishing revenues of nearly $6.0 million. (3)

In Mozambique, Fisheries contribute 3–4% of GDP, over 80% of total fish landings are accounted for by the small-scale sector and about 334 000 Mozambicans depend directly or indirectly on small-scale fishing (marine and freshwater). saia_rpt_13_ benkenstein_20130911 (2)

While in the Seychelles, the small-scale fishery which includes the artisanal and semi-industrial sub-sectors, contributed between 1% and 2% to GDP annually and the fisheries sector, as a whole, contributed 7.7% in 2008.  17% of the total population is employed in the fishery, 30% of which are active in the small-scale sector, while 10% of the population is directly dependent on the small-scale sector. (5)

At the moment, there is little evidence available and one cannot put a finger on the total economic value of Small-Scale Fisheries in the context of South Africa.

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