Improving Governance of Aquaculture Employment

Lucy Towers
03 February 2014, at 12:00am

This report by N. Hishamunda, et al, from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), summarises some of the issues facing aquaculture employment governance in a number of countries, current best practices and suggestions for improvements.

Effective governance of modern aquaculture must reconcile ecological and human wellbeing so that the industry is sustainable over time. Without effective governance, there will be misallocation of resources, and perhaps stagnation of the industry, irreversible environmental damage, and social unrest. An important component of human wellbeing is the treatment of the workers in the industry.

The aim of this study, which was recommended by FAO Members during the Fourth Session of the FAO COFI Sub-Committee on Aquaculture held in Puerto Verras, Chile, in 2008, is to contribute to
the understanding of governance in aquaculture employment so as to suggest potential
improvements where necessary.

A dozen farms and jurisdictions in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe were reviewed for their employment practices. Information on employment characteristics, such as educational background, gender and remuneration, was obtained from farms by survey.

The aim is to evaluate whether workers in aquaculture are treated according to the law, and are paid at a rate equal to those in similar sectors. The creation of employment appears to be a decisive factor in public perceptions of the aquaculture industry, as indicated in attitudinal studies.

The conclusions of this report suggest that aquaculture has benefited the overall socio-economic conditions of the areas in which it operates. The industry has provided jobs, particularly non-seasonal jobs. These have enabled young people to stay in their communities, enhancing the economic viability of isolated areas.

Total remuneration levels in all of the enterprises surveyed were at, or above, the minimum wage, and
usually above wages in alternative sectors. Farms also provided indirect benefits, such as medical and pension coverage, and in some cases, bonuses.

Attitudinal surveys indicate that these benefits are appreciated by the local population. However, there are negative aspects.

Wages of unskilled workers in fish processing are low and working conditions often rudimentary. The dominance of large companies in areas of high unemployment can create a dualistic labour market that is reflected in wages; professionals are paid competitive salaries, but unskilled workers less than the value of their revenue product.

There is also the danger that labour laws are either poorly enforced or, where violated, result in fines that lack deterrence, perhaps because governments wish to retain a competitive advantage for their internationally traded species. A number of suggestions are made that would improve the governance of labour in aquaculture.

Further Reading

You can view the full report and list of authors by clicking here.

February 2014