To Ensure Food Security and Livelihoods, Governments, Private Business, NGOs and Donors Should Aid Small Scale Fisheries, Study Finds

May 22, 2020

Arlington, Va. (May 22, 2020) – A new study from Coastal Management, co-authored by Conservation International Coastal Community Fisheries Program Manager Dr. Elena Finkbeiner, reveals that the coronavirus pandemic is drastically affecting most small-scale fisheries that supply the majority of fish destined for direct human consumption worldwide and employ 90% of fishers globally. The study concludes with a call to action for governments, private businesses, NGOs and donors to provide support for the sector.

The study analyzes trending news and reports on the issues facing small-scale fisheries as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. With quarantines and social distancing rules in effect, boats from many small-scale fisheries are not catching their usual take because of market disruptions and other factors, which is putting some communities dependent on the industry for food security and livelihoods at greater risk.

Despite the negative impacts of COVID-19 restrictions on many small-scale fisheries, some have risen to the challenge and remained committed to feeding the communities where they operate, keeping their local economies afloat and providing food to the most vulnerable households. These local networks and operations have provided a direct opportunity for household consumers to access fish protein outside of larger supply chains that have been disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, such as to hotels and restaurants.

Three out of seven people globally rely on fish as their main source of protein —Yet other industries often take precedence in government food production ministries, undervaluing the role of fisheries in global food security. Increased support could help the struggling small-scale fisheries remain operational, encouraging sustainability and the health of the people relying on them.

Finkbeiner proposes short-term and long-term solutions that governments, private business, NGOs and donors can take to ensure the food security and livelihoods of affected regions.

Governments and private business:

-        Mobilize financial resources for food and employment security for fishing communities most affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

-        Explore opportunities to increase resilience of small-scale fisheries supply chains, such as refrigeration and processing capacity, and strengthening local markets connecting fishers directly to household consumers.


-        Rapid mobilization and reallocation of any existing resources and funding to support NGO coastal community partners in the short term.

-        Aggregate insights from coastal community partners across geographies through a rapid assessment approach, which can inform a medium to longer term study monitoring the impacts of the pandemic.


-        Rapidly identify how to support the small-scale fishing sector during this time of change.

-        Allow flexibility with already allocated funds, or by re-orienting future funding opportunities to prioritize small-scale fisheries work. 

“Through this study, we really hope to elevate the importance of coastal fisheries for global food and livelihood security and marine conservation, so that these communities receive the support and attention they deserve during the pandemic and into the future. Globally, we can no longer afford to overlook the significance of this sector,” said Finkbeiner.

Conservation International remains committed to its coastal community fisheries programs. Country programs across the Americas, Asia Pacific and Africa regions are engaged with work that supports the wellbeing of people and their livelihoods.

Finkbeiner is available to comment about this study. For interviews, contact Jess Brown, Media Relations Specialist at or Kipp Lanham, Media Relations Manager at

About Conservation International

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