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World Fisheries Day is celebrated every year on 21 November around the globe. This year's motto focused on social sustainability and working conditions in the fisheries sector. The idea of World Fisheries Day originated in 1997 at the World Fisheries Forum in New Delhi, India. It was proposed by a group of supporters of small-scale fisheries and environmentalists who recognized the need to raise awareness about the importance of fisheries and the challenges they face. Since World War II, subsidy driven overcapacity in industrial fishing fleets has led to sequential overfishing and expansion into the last corner of the ocean contributing to mass species extinction and declining catches.

Climate change with a warming ocean with less oxygen and growing acidification adds to the strain on marine ecosystems and their resources. Small-scale fisheries (SSF) usually deploying low impact gear account for approximately a quarter of the global wild fish food production and 90% of the workforce, both men and women. Many SSF are in a serious crisis mode as the bases of their livelihoods get eroded by overfishing and poor governance.

"On World Fisheries Day, we urgently call on leaders engaged in International and UN negotiations to acknowledge, endorse and actively involve small-scale fishers and fish workers, Indigenous people and local communities within discussions and decisions aimed at restoring a healthy ocean and healthy inland waters. Crucially, this must include establishing transparent and accountable mechanisms that ensure the inclusion and active participation of those groups in meetings, delegations, side-events and agreements as well as working to support their inclusion in the subsequent implementation of the agreements."

Thus was the opening of an Open Letter to ministers in charge of fisheries in many countries, organisations of fishers and fish workers, researchers, environmental NGOs and civil society organisations working for a healthy ocean and healthy people on a healthy planet.

"Today, as we celebrate World Fisheries Day to highlight the importance of sustainable fish populations in the world, we call for the support of small-scale fisheries, Indigenous peoples and local communities and their equitable participation in the global decisions and agreements related to the marine resources important for their livelihoods and socio-cultural well-being, including the High-Level Event for Ocean Action in 2024 in Costa Rica, the FAO Committee on Fisheries 2024, the CBD COP16, the UN Climate COP29, and the UN Ocean Conference in 2025."

Mundus maris supports this Open Letter and contributed to its development, particularly through active participation in the Small-Scale Fisheries Cluster of RISE UP.  Read the Open Letter here. We invite all readers and interested people to join our efforts and those of the large coalition. Contact us at info(at)

For more information on the Blue Call for Action of the initiative RISE UP for the Ocean click here.

World Fisheries Day in Lagos

On the heels of several joint webinars on key issues of concern for fisheries and the livelihoods of small-scale operators in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea countries, Mundus maris and Fish Party celebrated World Fisheries Day 2023 in a webinar with experienced speakers focused on the Voluntary Guidelines for Assuring Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication. The SSF Guidelines will look back at 10 years of practice or lack of it since their adoption in 2014 by the Fisheries Committee (COFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Moderated by Prof. Stella Williams of Mundus maris, Dr. Kafayat Fakoya representing WorldFish Nigeria for the occasion, but also a researcher at Lagos State University (LASU) and member of Mundus maris, recalled how the SSF Guidelines had  become known only in 2017 more widely. The researchers established contact with ICSF, the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers, headquartered in India, which had played a major role in the bottom-up development of the SSF Guidelines, to seek guidance on what to do in 2019. Combined efforts then led to the 3-day international workshop in 2022 that combined discussions about experience and action needed in Nigeria with experience reports from other African countries. Throughout it was clear that multi-stakeholder processes  were required to implement the guidelines and reap their benefirts for food security, healthy resource systems and contributions to social and economic well-being.

Dr. Atim Okoko, of Fisheries in the Nigerian spoke of her field experience with the SSF Guidelines, namely to expand the awareness throughout the countries and the urgent need to strengthen local institutions. She insisted that it was important to look at fisheries in the broader context of rural development and the effects that better infrastructure and social services like access to health care and education will have. She mentioned a project implemented way back by the FAO to strengthen cooperative societies and the beneficial effects of bringing electricity to rural communities. Leadership training and study tours to others with good experiences in combination with regular extension services would make a big difference.

Deaconess Foluke Areola, recently elected into a senior position of the World Aquaculture Society, confirmed that the SSF Guidelines were not well understood throughout the country. With her background as former Director of Fisheries she recalled that the sector policies in Nigeria had focused on small-scale fisheries until the 2005 Summit organised by NEPAD and WorldFish, among others, which placed the major attention for the country on aquaculture. That was a reaction to declining catches from overfishing and other factors. Moreover, the emphasis on export-oriented industrial shrimping since 1999 had not been good for local production by coastal fishers. But the USD 50 million per year of export earnings to the EU had weighed in more heavily.

She insisted that it was important to achieve a better understanding of the Guidelines and the roles of fishers and administrations at different levels, manage the expectations in relation to government policies and their implementation and bring in more civil society organisations for improved outcomes. She deplored weak statistics and suggested that the system of enumerators in all major fish landing places should be reinstated. That would work to strengthen the basis of decision making if they were well-trained and equipped and gaining trust in the communities.

The ensuing exchange highlighted the need for differentiated responses to account for the local conditions along the coastal states in Nigeria, but also for those with significant inland water resources.  Listening to the women and men directly involved to tap into their experience for identifying the most pressing problems and promising roads to positive change was suggested by Cornelia Nauen from Mundus maris in response to demands for action plans. Building trust among stakeholders, strengthening local organisations, and learning from one another was mentioned repeatedly in the concluding remarks. Producing materials in local languages, having regular meetings to decide on concrete action and monitor implementation should be practical implementation steps, whenever possible with active implementation of extension workers. It's all about making the application of the SSF Guidelines a reality and thus work towards social sustainability and  change working conditions in the fisheries sector for the better.

Let's take the positive energy forward into the different states in Nigeria and their fishing and rural communities. The RISE UP Open Letter for World Fisheries Day was shared with all participants afterwards.


World Fisheries Day by several sector organisations in Senegal

World Fisheries Day gave rise to several events in Senegal. In the face of the profound crisis of the sector engendered particularly by industrial overfishing and poor governance, several sector organisations demanded a stop to more industrial fishing licences, catching juveniles, and the construction of more fishmeal factories that jeopardise the availability of affordable fish food to the local population. Access to small pelagics like Sardinella and Ethmalosa need to be reserved for local operators to make sure women can earn a living in postharvest activities and sustain their families. The professional organisations also express their great concern about irregular emigration.


Click on the picture to access the YouTube video with the declaration delivered by Abdoulaye Ndiaye towards the government to bring the sector back towards viable pathways or click here for the memorandum with an analysis of the issues and the urgent demands launched. Abdoulaye Ndiaye heads the Ocean Campaign of Greenpeace Africa and was the speaker for the coalition of organisations celebrating this 'dark day' for fisheries in Senegal.

The nine key demands are as follows:

1. Freeze the granting of any new industrial fishing licenses on fully exploited and overexploited stocks;

2. Reserve the exploitation and marketing of Sardinella and Ethmalosa (bonga shad) exclusively to national players for the supply of the national market in order to strengthen national food security and job creation;

3. Increase the representation of fishing professionals in management bodies (CNCPM, CCALP, and other commissions);

4. Implement the recommendations of the consultations on Fish Meal and Fish Oil Factories (UFHP), in particular the issuance of the order for freezing authorizations for the establishment of all new fish meal and fish oil units and the audit of existing ones;

5. Take sustainable fisheries management measures to eradicate irregular emigration;

6. Carry out an independent evaluation, by the Senegalese side, of the Fisheries Agreement with the European Union (EU) before any negotiations for the renewal of the fisheries agreement can be granted and share the results with stakeholders;

7. Strengthen research and popularise the results with stakeholders (professionals, fisheries administration, etc.);

8. Professionalize the artisanal fishing sector and generalise job cards (for fish mongers, women processors, artisanal fishermen, etc.); and

9. Implement international standards and good practices for fisheries transparency.



Also on 21 November 2023, in Hann Bel Air, Aliou Sall of Mundus maris had convened a groupe of women in the community who had discussed their grievances for a long time already. They complain about being displaced from their traditional working spaces without compensation to make room for a huge refrigeration complex by a foreign investor. Overfishing, particularly through industrial vessels have brought the resource to its knees and many boats will not even take to the sea for fishing because the scarce catches do not cover operating costs.

The increasing catches of juvenile small pelagic fish means, what remains of the fishery is rapidly destroying its own future. That means many women here and in other places are out of work.

Mundus maris has developed, together with others concerned about the future of fishing, the FishBase app. The scan of the QR code to the right will install the app on any Android device. Chosing a country will download all recorded information relevant for this country so that it is not necessary to be permanently connected to the internet. Chose your language and off you go.

The app allows to search the country information extracted from the global information system on all fish species known to science by common fish name in any language. Pick the one of interest and you get the picture and the minimum reproductive size of the fish and a few other basic info of relevance to check whether the size composition of landed fish are babies or adults.

By looking at the optimum size, users seeing lots of juveniles can get a sense of the waste and loss of potential harvest in the near future. It should help to prevent a sense of powerlessness in the face of mismanagement. Anyone can see what ought to be fished and what not and demand sustainability practices with proper oversight by the administration.

Right now, what little gets landed may end up in fishmeal factories or in channels controlled by investors from outside the community. Not earning their living, the families are in distress. That dwarfs even basic concerns the women had for years already, because the lack of accessible toilets and even basic anemities affected their working conditions and health. With one administrative 'explanation' or another, no administration was willing to ensure their rights. Recently, security became even more of a problem than it was before the expulsion. Near their stalls drug trafficking, thugs and theft abound even putting their lives at risk. It's an outright scandal.

The meeting on 21 November with financial support by Mundus maris, focused on making the Voluntary Guidelines for Assuring Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries a reality. Many women were still not properly informed about the human rights provisions and the concrete measures promoted by the SSF Guidelines, which the Senegalese government had publicly promised to adopt. Therefore a video with Wolof voice over filled in this information gap. The women also watched the documentary by ZIDEOPROD in Senegal, co-sponsored by Mundus maris, "Golden fish, African fish" to get an overview about all elements of the value chain. The film won dozens of prizes in international film festivals and was translated into several languages. The participants could see how a few years ago, the installation of foreign owned fish meal factories in Kafountine destroyed a productive local and regional economy around catches of small pelagics, locally processed and marketed all over the region into the Sahel. This sort of destruction is now being generalised and it's high time to oppose even worse excesses. The export orientation at the expense of meeting even basic local needs must not continue unchecked.

With that the women decided to have another meeting at the end of the week to discuss the issues further and decide on what action to take to push for meeting their demands.

Meanwhile, the Open Letter of RISE UP demanding seats at the table where decisions are being taken on the governance of fisheries and the ocean was sent to the Ministry for Fisheries and Marine Economy of the country.