SSF Guidelines


Small-scale and artisanal fisheries contribute about half of global fish catches and employ millions of people. They are often rooted in local communities, providing food security and nutrition, reducing poverty. At a time of great environmental crises, small-scale fisheries provide hope. Yet their interests and contributions are often overlooked.

This gap was finally filled in 2014 in a watershed moment: the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) endorsed the ‘Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication’ (SSF Guidelines). It is the only international instrument dedicated to small-scale fisheries. This set of guidelines directs policy, from the local to the international levels, to support and promote the sub-sector.

The SSF Guidelines provide representation to the marginalized. For their secure tenure over fishing resources and space; for decent conditions of work; for the social development of fishing communities; gender equity and equality; for balancing universal human rights while respecting local conditions and traditions.

It resulted from a long-drawn democratic campaign. In the 1980s, small groups of fishers began voicing their concerns about the social and environmental crisis caused by industrial fishing across developing countries. They began collaborating. ICSF resulted from such partnerships.

The Rio declaration of 1992 had recognized the rights of traditional fishers and their contributions. In 1995 FAO adopted the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (CCRF). It recognized the contributions of artisanal fisheries, recommending their preferential access to fishing resources. FAO organized its first global conference of small-scale fisheries in Thailand in 2008.

Thereafter, several workshops hosted over 4,000 participants from 120 nations. In 2011, FAO’s Committee on Fisheries (COFI) recommended an international legal instrument to safeguard the rights of small-scale, artisanal fishers. The next two years were a participatory effort to create a consensus and agree on a final text. The SSF Guidelines were endorsed in June, 2014. The challenge now is for all stakeholders to implement the SSF Guidelines.

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Current Programmes

2nd Small-Scale Fisheries Summit (SSF Summit 2024), Rome, Italy

The SSF Summit 2024 is poised to be a pivotal event that seeks to transform from mere discussions to a collective endeavor, with a common objective: advancing the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. In recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication (SSF Guidelines), this 2nd SSF Summit is dedicated to not only acknowledging this milestone, but also assessing the current status of the SSF Guidelines implementation at the national, regional and global level to inform future actions. It will serve as a global platform to collaboratively address governance and development challenges in small-scale fisheries while proposing and sharing solutions to foster and strengthen the implementation of the SSF Guidelines. For more details, please visit:


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Towards the implementation of the SSF Guidelines in Eastern Africa. Proceedings of the East Africa Consultation Workshop on Improving Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication. 15−18 September 2015. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


This document provides a summary of the presentations, discussions, conclusions and recommendations of the workshop. The overall objective of the workshop was to facilitate an understanding of the principles of...

Promoting gender equity and equality through the small-scale fisheries guidelines: Experiences from multiple case studies

To provide an example of the diverse and interacting issues related to the implementation of the gender equity and equality principle, we use case studies and expertise from seven countries...

Policy coherence with the small-scale fisheries guidelines: Analysing across scales of governance in Pacific small-scale fisheries

This global document enters a complex policy landscape within the Pacific region. In anticipation of its region-wide implementation, this chapter focuses on policy coherence; using Solomon Islands as a case...

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