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Decent Work in the fishing sector

Two parallel training courses for fishing sector employers’ and workers’ representatives from 16 Latin American countries took place at the ITC-ILO in Turin from 18 to 22 August. Course participants will now gather in Bamio, Spain, together with the participants in another Centre course attended by government officials. This second, “tripartite” phase, focusing on the ILO Convention on the “Work in the Fishing Sector” (No.188), is due to end on 29 August.

The marine fisheries sector employs a considerable workforce worldwide. In 1998, an estimated 36 million people were engaged in capture fishing and aquaculture production, namely 15 million full-time, 13 million part-time and 8 million occasional workers. According to FAO data, in 2000 an estimated 27 million people were working solely in capture fishing (including full-time, part-time and occasional fishers). The vast majority live in developing countries (83 per cent in Asia, 9 per cent in Africa and 2.5 per cent in South America), with the rest divided among fish-exporting countries in North America, Europe and the former Soviet Union.

Establishing innovative labour standards to improve the conditions of men and women working in the fishing sector worldwide is the objective of the "Work in the Fishing Sector" Convention adopted in 2007. The Convention aims at ensuring that workers in the fishing sector have improved occupational safety, health and medical care at sea, receive care ashore when sick or injured, get sufficient rest for their health and safety; have the protection of a work agreement, and have the same social security protection as other workers.

According to an ILO report on the subject, fishing, whether industrial or small-scale, is now facing the forces of globalization. These challenges make it increasingly important – for fishers, fishing vessel owners, related industries and consumers – to ensure that the fishing sector is subject to labour legislation that will protect fishers and will help make this essential profession attractive and sustainable.

The objective of our training courses on this subject, held in conjunction with the Spanish Instituto Social de la Marina, which has considerable experience in this field, is to analyse the Convention’s text and help ILO constituents get to know its essential elements better so that they can discuss it at national level and thereby promote its ratification. The Convention will come into force only after it is ratified by at least ten member states, eight of which have to be coastal countries. This makes Latin America strategically important for the promotion of Convention No. 188.

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