Small Fish for Food Security and Nutrition: New FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture Technical Paper


Food insecurity, hunger, and malnutrition have been on the rise in recent years, due to disruptions such as the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing climate shocks, and conflicts. Decades of steady progress to reduce food insecurity and malnutrition were often attributed to increased food production and intensification of a few food staple crops and livestock, however, more recent focus has shifted to the role of small-scale producers and the importance of diverse and nutritious foods.

This technical paper brings focus to the often overlooked ‘small fish’ which play an integral role in the food security, nutrition, and livelihoods of the small-scale fisherfolk who harvest, process, market, trade and distribute small fish to communities near and far from water bodies. The technical paper explores the various dimensions of the ‘small fish food system’, addressing drivers, scales, interactions, and multiple outcomes and trade-offs, such as that of small fish used for food versus feed. Throughout, the work applies a human-centered perspective, emphasizing how people are involved in various stages of a food system, and how interactions and networks between them play a role in food system dynamics and outcomes. It also emphasized how people play multiple roles within a food system, and thus should not be narrowly defined as fishers, processors, or consumers. The paper documents project implementation and lessons from the SmallFishFood, Ikan-F3, Dried Fish Matters, and Fish4Food projects led by the University of Bergen, the University of Amsterdam and the University of Manitoba, and FAO small-scale fisheries projects.

The paper provides the backbone for a roundtable discussion on “Small Fish for Whom?” at the MARE conference in the week of 26-30 June.  Please join us for this session if you plan to attend MARE!


For any questions or follow-up, please contact the editorial team through:

Maarten Bavinck (University of Amsterdam) –

Molly Ahern (FAO Fisheries & Aquaculture Division) –