Decent Work


Most people work on land. Unless rocked by an earthquake, their work stations remain still. Not so for fishers. Their entire work platform rocks and rolls ceaselessly. Non-fishers cannot imagine the risks they face. Fishers work in unique conditions. There are no regular hours. On-board accommodation can be extremely cramped and unhealthy.

The difficulties don’t end when the catch is landed. Fishworkers include those in the harbours; those who process the fish and carry out post-harvest activities; those who work these into markets. Even though women carry out these activities—some even more than men—their contribution is undervalued. They work in difficult conditions, without healthcare or decent facilities, facing violence and harassment.

Trade union membership is low. Which means labour standards and legal frameworks, like those laid down by the International Labour Organization (ILO) to protect fishers, are often not to their benefit. There are also concerns worldwide about forced labour, human trafficking and exploitation of migrant labour.

ICSF has, since its inception in 1986, worked to improve the conditions of work onboard fishing vessels through legal and policy interventions. ICSF has advocated for the inclusion of small-scale fishing vessels in the ILO Work in Fishing Convention C188, which lays down binding requirements concerning work on board fishing vessels, occupational safety, health and medical care at sea and ashore, rest periods, written work agreements. ICSF has worked in partnership with FAO and ILO to address child labour issues in fishing.

Current Programmes

Engaging with the Decent work process related to the adopted Work in Fishing Convention (WFC), 2007 has been an important part of ICSF’s work. ICSF saw engagement with the ILO process as an opportunity to focus greater attention on issues related to the conditions of work in the small-scale fisheries sector, including aspects such as safety at sea, social security, and remuneration and recognition of shore -based workers, especially women.


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