FAO’s initiatives in sustainable fisheries management for food and nutrition security

Women purchase small pelagic fish (Dagaa) at the Fish Landing site for processing. Photo Credits @FAO/Luis Tato.

What you need to know:

  • With about 58.5 million people working in fisheries and aquaculture worldwide, of which approximately 21 percent are women, these sectors provide livelihoods for around 600 million people.

Global efforts pave the way for transformative fisheries and aquaculture practices

In a world where food security and nutrition are paramount concerns, sustainable fisheries management takes center stage. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been actively collaborating with partners to address the challenges and opportunities within the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, ensuring a resilient and nourishing future for all.

Global fisheries and aquaculture production reached a peak of 214 million tonnes in 2020, encompassing 178 million tonnes of aquatic animals and 36 million tonnes of algae, largely attributed to the growth of aquaculture in Asia (SOFIA, 2022). With about 58.5 million people working in fisheries and aquaculture worldwide, of which approximately 21 percent are women, these sectors provide livelihoods for around 600 million people. Over the past two decades, fisheries and aquaculture have gained recognition for their vital contribution to global food security and nutrition. Per capita fish consumption increased from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to approximately 20.5 kg in 2020. Projections indicate that increased income, urbanization, and improvements in post-harvest practices could drive fish consumption to rise by 15 percent by 2030. However, international trade in fisheries and aquaculture products decreased from USD 165 billion in 2018 to USD 151 billion in 2020.

Sardines on raised racks for drying up at Kayenze landing site, in Mwanza Region.

Significant variations exist between regions, with around 70 percent of global production coming from Asian countries, followed by the Americas, Europe, and Africa. In Tanzania, the fisheries sector encompasses both marine and inland waters, contributing significantly to food security and socioeconomic well-being. In the marine fishery, Tanzania's territorial sea covers approximately 64,000 km² with a coastal line of 1,424 km. The Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extends up to 200 nautical miles, providing additional marine area and fisheries resources. Inland waters, including rivers and transboundary lakes such as Victoria, Tanganyika, and Nyasa, constitute an essential part of Tanzania's fisheries sector. The sector's contributions are underscored by its employment of over 195,000 people in capture fishery and 30,000 in aquaculture. Additionally, around 4.5 million people, equivalent to 6.89 percent of Tanzania's population are indirectly employed in various ancillary activities related to fisheries. The sector also contributes to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP), accounting for 1.8 percent in 2021.

While Tanzania's fish consumption provides 30 percent of the total animal protein, per capita fish consumption remains at 8.5 kg, considerably below the global average of 20.5 kg. Challenges such as post-harvest losses, inadequate processing skills, limited access to financial services, feeble governance systems, and insufficient data management systems hinder the sector's potential to generate wealth and uplift dependent communities.

In response, FAO, in partnership with the European Union (EU), Sida and Norway, WB COIKA/JIKA, Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), and other stakeholders, has undertaken initiatives to enhance Tanzania's fisheries sector. One such initiative involves the development of the Fisheries Sector Master Plan (FSMP), rooted in the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries and Aquaculture (EAF) principles. The FSMP serves as a strategic framework for the long-term management and sustainable development of the sector. Collaborative efforts among the government, private sector, and civil society seek to harness the potential of capturing fisheries and aquaculture, generating jobs, ensuring food security, and contributing to economic growth.

The FAO has also supported Tanzania's implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries, promoting equitable practices and poverty eradication. Efforts extend to reducing post-harvest losses through training and the introduction of innovative technologies such as solar tent dryers and mechanical dryers. Initiatives for gender equality and empowerment, as well as sustainable development in aquaculture, are also pivotal components of FAO's work in Tanzania's fisheries sector.

As global challenges mount, the need for collaborative and innovative fisheries management becomes increasingly urgent. Tanzania's fisheries sector presents attractive investment opportunities, including fish processing, aquatic tourism, and aquaculture. By working together, FAO, its partners, and Tanzania's government are paving the way for sustainable fisheries management, contributing to a vision of a blue economy that transforms aquatic food systems for better production, nutrition, environment, and overall quality of life. Through collective efforts, the well-being of Tanzania's fisheries, marine ecosystems, and the communities they sustain can be secured.