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Artisanal fishing (also referred to as ‘small scale fishing’) provides food and livelihoods for vast numbers of people around the world, particularly in developing nations.

This indicator estimates the need individuals and households have for the opportunity to catch fish as a main source of protein or as an item to sell or trade locally for other foods or items necessary for life. Artisanal fishing typically has relatively small running costs and fish are caught primarily for local consumption rather than export or commercial purposes.

How Was It Measured?

For each country, the likely need for artisanal fishing opportunities was represented by the average ability of its citizens to buy the items they required; a low ability to buy these items suggested a higher need for artisanal fishing opportunities.

The Ocean Health Index (OHI) obtained data on per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (2012 USD) for each country from the World Bank. Per capita GDP for each country was adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) to express the 'buying power' of each country's currency. The final values, Purchasing Power Parity adjusted per capita Gross Domestic Product (PPPpcGDP) were used to represent the need for artisanal fishing opportunities.  Low values for PPPpcGDP mean that food and other goods are expensive, so the need for people to do small-scale fishing would likely be high. 

Artisanal fishing need is used, along with access to artisanal fishing, to calculate status for the Artisanal Fishing Opportunities goal. Status is calculated as (1 - unmet need).  Unmet need is calculated as (1 - log-transformed, rescaled PPPpcGDP) multiplied by (1 - access to artisanal type fishing).  When both PPPpcGDP and access to artisanal type fishing are high, unmet need is low and the status score  approaches 100.

The target for the Artisanal Fishing Opportunities goal is for there to be no unmet demand for such fishing; and for all artisanal fishing to be done by sustainable methods. Each country's Status score for the goal is therefore calculated as (1 - unmet demand) x country-specific sustainability factor. For additional information see Web page for Artisinal Fishing: Access. 

What Are The Impacts?

Local Communities Depend Upon Artisanal Fishing as a Source of Food and Livelihoods


Small-scale fisheries have the potential to be, and often are more sustainable than large-scale operations (Jacquet and Pauly 2008).

In 2014 FAO adopted extensive voluntary guidelines for the development of sustainable small-scale fisheries in the context of food security and poverty eradication.   


Millions of people worldwide depend upon seafood to meet their daily protein needs.  Small scale fisheries supply protein to communities that may be remote or have limited access to other markets or food sources.


Artisanal fishing provides jobs for tens of millions of people both directly and indirectly (e.g. fish processing or marketing).

Artisanal fishing includes 90% of all fishing jobs worldwide, approximately 45% of the world’s fisheries, and nearly a quarter of the world catch (Schoor 2005).

Costs associated with artisanal fishing tend to be lower than those of commercial fisheries due to lower fuel consumption and running costs for boats, which tend to make shorter trips close to shore.

Comparatively, artisanal and commercial fisheries each catch the same amount of fish for human consumption (30 million tons), yet artisanal fisheries employ 25 times the number of fishers (over 12 million people) and use an eighth of the amount of fuel used by industrial fisheries annually (Jacquet and Pauly 2008).

What Has Been Done?

Artisanal fishers in Costa Rica now use bottom long-lines to catch spotted snapper (Lutianus guttatus) sustainably; this technique does not over-exploit the snappers and it does not harm the habitat. The Ministry of Environment has established two Marine Protected Areas that allow use of bottom long-lines, but not shrimp trawls or gillnets. The fishermen market the snappers to local hotels and restaurants at a premium price, providing incentive to continue sustainable fishing practices. The project was one of the 2010 winners of Geotourism Challenge 2010: Places on the Edge - Saving Coastal and Freshwater Destinations, sponsored by the National Geographic Society and Ashoka, and is being evaluated for certification by the Marine Stewardship Council.

Brandon Puckett/Marine Photobank

A community in northern Madagascar has achieved dramatic success in protecting its local fishery. By designating the fishing area as a no-take zone for between three and four months each year they allowed fish stocks to replenish. Protection has produced spectacular results. Fish yields have increased from 600kg in a whole day to 5 tons in three hours of fishing.  In partnership with Conservation International, the community has also established a lucrative goat and sheep farming enterprise that generates revenue during months when the protected area is closed to fishing. 

© Cristina Mittermeier

Get More Information

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) The World Factbook    

Country Comparison: GDP (Purchasing Power Parity)

The World Bank  

Global Program on Fisheries (PROFISH)

Fishery Dependent Information (FDI) 2014

A conference that brings together scientists, managers, policy makers and fishers to explore available options for the collection and interpretation of fishery dependent data.

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