Illuminating Hidden Harvests

Research to raise awareness of small-scale fisheries

Vital for food and livelihoods

Small-scale fisheries provide livelihoods for millions of people, essential nutrition to billions and contribute substantially to household, local and national economies and economic growth.

Yet, many small-scale fishery activities are informal and not counted. And because small-scale fisheries are diverse and dispersed, fully measuring their contributions is difficult. As a result, they are often marginalized in policy-making processes and overlooked in policy.

Policy support is crucial as small-scale fishers face competition from larger-scale operations, lack access to financial services and markets, and have limited voice in the political arena.

Providing new evidence

Illuminating Hidden Harvests is a collaborative study that provides a ‘snapshot’ of the current contributions, impacts and drivers of change of small-scale fisheries globally.  

Building on the 2012 Hidden Harvest report, the IHH study delves deeper into the social, environmental, economic and governance contributions of marine and inland small-scale fisheries at global and local scales.

The study uses a case study approach, focusing on countries that have significant production or dependence on small-scale fisheries. The case studies, along with a diverse set of global and regional datasets and ad hoc survey responses from national fisheries administrations, will feed into the global synthesis and thematic studies.

Targeting policymakers and advocates

The research will help to inform global policy-making processes and empower fishing communities, their organizations and advocates to make a strong case for productive, sustainable and equitable small-scale fisheries.

Knowledge generated by the project supports implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries in the Context of Food Security and Poverty Eradication and progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly 2.3 and 14b.

Project outputs

A major synthesis report will be released in late 2020. Thematic studies and possibly some country case studies will be published as separate reports and scientific journal articles where appropriate.

Key facts about small-scale fisheries

The 2012 Hidden Harvest study found:

  • Millions of metric tons of fish from the small-scale fisheries are hidden (unreported), with inland fisheries catch estimated to be underreported by about 70 percent.
  • Of the 120 million people that depend on capture fisheries, 116 million work in developing countries. Of these, more than 90 percent work in small-scale fisheries and 47 percent of the workforce is women.
  • In developing countries, small-scale fisheries produce over half the fish catch and 90–95 percent of this is consumed locally in rural settings where poverty rates are high and quality nutrition is sorely needed.
  • Employment in small-scale fisheries is several times higher per ton of harvest than in large-scale fisheries.