The ocean plays an important role in global food supply by providing highly nutritious food. The world's largest user group of the oceans are women and men who fish, service, and trade from small-scale fisheries.
Almost 90% of all fishers worldwide are small-scale fishers from developing countries, who generate 50% of all catches worldwide. These are the fisheries whose catches predominantly benefit local communities, contributing to food and nutrition security and creating jobs for men, women, and the youth. Small-scale fisheries in West Africa play exactly this role: they boost national economies and constitute the main livelihood for most people living along the coasts.
The artisanal sector is the main supplier of fish production in the region, contributing more than 60% of the total marine catch. Fish and other aquatic foods from artisanal fisheries, marketed and treated by fish processors, many of which are women, provide income in the fight against poverty as well as animal protein and essential nutrients in the fight against hunger and malnutrition across the region.
Fish availability decreases with increasing distance from the coast and urban areas. However, dried and smoked pelagic fish (sardinella, bonga shad and horse mackerel) are – due to their abundance and low price – available to half of the population in ECOWAS, and especially in remote areas, where they make an important contribution to food security. In the context of the 2022 UN International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture (IYAFA) and following up on the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, this side event combines contributions from actors in small-scale fisheries, fish processing, science, politics, and international cooperation in order to demonstrate how cross-sectoral and multi-actor initiatives create new partnerships, favourable framework conditions, and innovative tools that help to use the ocean's fish resources sustainably and to strengthen small-scale fisheries in West Africa.