COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, and years later there remains serious ongoing economic, health, and food system challenges. Global growth is estimated to slow in 2022 as a result of COVID-19 flare-ups, tightening monetary policy, supply chain bottlenecks, climate change, and other factors.

The number of people employed in early 2022 was 3.8% below pre-pandemic levels and salaries have not kept pace with inflation. On top of that, the conflict between Ukraine and the Russian Federation has also affected energy and commodity prices. Food insecurity is higher today than ever before. Countries hardest hit by the pandemic have seen the greatest increase in consumer food prices for nutritious foods. Recovery from the pandemic remains uneven and has exacerbated inequalities.

The pandemic intensified data scarcity in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors. Routine monitoring, stock assessments, meetings, and enforcement was paused or halted, and national reporting slowed. This hindered efforts to manage natural resources and understand how the pandemic affected different populations. Knowledge gaps were smaller in countries with greater institutional, financial, and technological capacity. With support from the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Fisheries and Aquaculture Division COVID-19 Task Force, a systematic literature review was conducted to characterize COVID-19 impacts and responses to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors globally.

This effort focused on fisheries and aquaculture producers, their value chains, and consumers of aquatic foods. This literature review covered the first two years of the pandemic and returned 14,628 unique records for screening, of which 671 articles were included in the final stage of data analysis. A total of 186 countries were studied; however, countries with a larger share of fisheries and aquaculture production were better represented. The largest share of studies was in Asia, which is responsible for 75% of fisheries and aquaculture production.

Most studies covered the first year of the pandemic, with many focusing on the first wave of lockdowns from March through June 2020. While this literature review provides evidence of short- and medium-term impacts and responses, few reports looked at impacts beyond the first year of the pandemic.