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SSF Summit: More than 200 fishers from all continents join in Rome to give the sector a future

Over 200 small-scale fishers, fisheries associations, non-governmental organizations and government representatives from more than 40 countries gathered in Rome last weekend at the Small-Scale Fisheries Summit (SSF Summit) to highlight the role played by coastal communities in global food production and to call for increased support to improve their sustainability and social well-being.

The event was organized by the IPC Working Group on Fisheries, the Small-Scale Fisheries Resource and Collaboration Hub (SSF Hub) and the Mediterranean platform Friends of SSF and coordinated by the GFCM and WWF, with support from FAO, to celebrate the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA 2022) prior to the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI), which kicked off on Monday 5 September. 

The SSF Summit aimed to promote dialogue and collaboration between and among small-scale fishers, fish farmers, fishworkers, governments and other key partners along the value chain, as well as further strengthen their capacity to enhance sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture and to improve their social development and well-being.

On the occasion of the summit, over 20 fishers from Mediterranean and Black Sea countries joined in a dialogue organized by the GFCM and WWF, on behalf of the Friends of SSF, to discuss the common needs and challenges faced by the region’s small-scale fishers. Joint agreement was expressed on the importance of the Regional Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (RPOA-SSF)*, adopted in 2018, as a unique tool to support small-scale fisheries. Fishers from the region reviewed its implementation and proposed new ways forward.

“We could do so much more. We could preserve the environment better. We want to do better. But we are tired,” declared a fisher from Tunisia before the crowd. Lack of organization and representation, complicated bureaucracy, an inability to access funds and the difficulty of attracting young people and empowering women – not to mention the growing impact of climate change – are some of the common problems raised by small-scale fishers from the Mediterranean and the Black Sea at the summit.

But there is also increasing awareness of the possible solutions to many of these problems. “Fishers are best placed to know what is changing in their environment,” said Nicolàs Fernández, President of the Organization of Artisanal Fish Producers of the Conil Fish Market, Spain. In many areas, fisher associations are facilitating the exchange of knowledge and resources among fishers and helping them to increase their power in policy-making; projects are popping up to fish and commercialize invasive species, protect marine areas and collect and recycle plastics. 

“We learn and we adapt,” said Sassi Alaya, a small-scale fisher from Gabès, Tunisia. As more and more challenges knock at artisanal fishers’ doors, more credit needs to be given to their capacity for adaptation. Fishers expressed their readiness to join forces, innovate, try new solutions, and to learn and exchange with each other. They are asking for enhanced support and capacity building to increase the scope and impact of these projects at the local and regional levels.

Key takeaway points:  
  • The Regional Plan of Action for Small-Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea (RPOA-SSF) is an essential political commitment and roadmap guiding Mediterranean and Black Sea countries in supporting and enhancing the small-scale fisheries (SSF) sector. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, full implementation of this plan of action is ever more necessary to support a sustainable and viable SSF sector. 
  • Small-scale fishers from the region highlighted an array of challenges they face, which included climate change impacts, such as rising sea temperatures and an increase in non-indigenous species, marine pollution, competition with industrial and recreational fisheries, the need for infrastructure appropriate for small-scale fisheries, the need to improve working conditions (including for women), the need to ensure economic viability of the sector through vibrant and fair value chains and a lack of generational turnover in the sector.
  • Regional actors – such as the GFCM, the WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative and other members of the Friends of SSF – have a role to play in supporting SSF organizations by facilitating exchanges and providing technical assistance, as well as through capacity building to engage with donors and decision-makers in strategic and effective ways.

As a concrete outcome of the session, a regular occasion for Mediterranean and Black Sea SSF organizations to come together to discuss, exchange and identify priorities for common action was proposed. Because they feed the world with dignity, we need to respect, recognize, value and preserve them. Happy #IYAFA2022!

Conclusions of the Friends of SSF session are available here.
Further details, photos, and conclusions for the SSF Summit will be available shortly here.
Over 20 small-scale fishers from the Mediterranean and the Black Sea joined the SSF Summit in Rome