History was made in Rome this week when 143 countries from around the world unanimously adopted a new international instrument to guide their policies on small scale fisheries. The new instrument focusses on the social and economic aspects of sustainability and the importance of securing fisheries access for fishing communities.

According to Christian Brun, President of the Canadian Independent Fish Harvesters’ Federation, the new instrument is particularly relevant to Canadian fishermen who have been pushing for this broad socio-economic approach to fisheries sustainability for decades.

"The new Guidelines reinforce some important aspects of our existing policies such as Preserving the Independence of the Inshore Fleet in Canada’s Atlantic Fisheries (PIIFCAF) Brun said. "Now our domestic policies are framed by international commitments."

The new document calls on countries to enable small-scale fishermen to organise and to participate meaningfully in decision-making processes and value-chain dynamics for a more equitable distribution of benefits from national, regional and international trade.

Brun underscored the positive diplomatic role the Canadian government and Fisheries Minister Gail Shea in particular played in securing the international consensus on the Guidelines which had been threatened by the last minute introduction of an extraneous clause unrelated to fisheries. "On different issues Minister Shea has consistently shown she understands the perspective of independent fishermen", he said.

Adopted on Tuesday by the 31st session of the FAO Committee on Fisheries the Guidelines address five thematic areas: governance of tenure in small-scale fisheries and resource management; social development, employment and decent work; value chains, post harvest and trade; gender equality; disaster risks and climate change. Key areas for supporting the implementation of the guidelines are also explored, including: policy coherence, institutional coordination and collaboration; information, research and communication; capacity development.

The FAO dedicated the guidelines to Chandrika Sharma, Executive Secretary of the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF), who disappeared on the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 on 8 March 2014, and who fought, in the last six years, for the negotiation and adoption of the guidelines.

Furthermore, the Sub-Committee acknowledged the significance of user and access rights for small-scale fishers and welcomed the planned conference on tenure and user rights in fisheries, which will take place in Cambodia in February 2015.


Contact: Christian Brun (506) 532-2485



FAO, ‘Countries recognize vital role of small-scale fishers’, 10 June 2014


FAO, International guidelines for securing sustainable small scale fisheries, 9–13 June 2014


FAO Sub-committee on fish trade report


ICSF webpage on small scale fisheries guidelines