Food, Agriculture & Decent Work
ILO & FAO working together



FAO, ILO and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have long cooperated in relation to the safety of fishers and fishing vessels.

This cooperation began in the early 1960s with the development of Parts A and B of the Code of Safety for Fishing Vessels and Fishermen and continued between 1968 and 1974 for decked fishing vessels of 24 metres in length and over. This was followed by the development of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Design, Construction and Equipment of Small Fishing Vessels that are directed at decked fishing vessels of 12 metres in length and over but less than 24 metres in length. These documents were revised in 2005 and published by IMO on behalf of FAO, ILO and IMO (go to:IMO’s Online Bookshop). The Safety Recommendations for decked vessels of less than 12 metres in length and undecked vessels which development has now been completed, will be published soon. They provide guidelines to competent authorities for the design, construction, equipment, training of the crew of small fishing vessels and operational safety. The three Organizations are currently developing new guidelines, the so-called “Implementation Guidelines”, which purpose is to assist Competent Authorities in the implementation of the above-mentioned voluntary instruments. This is being carried out by a correspondence group and the target completion date for this work is 2011.

The FAO, ILO and IMO have also jointly prepared the Document for Guidance on Training and Certification of Fishing Vessel Personnel, which was first published in 1985 and extensively revised in 2001. The Document concerns the training and certification of both small-scale and industrial maritime fishers, and addresses the use of skills-based training and assessment arrangements, either as an alternative to or in conjunction with established systems of determining the competence of fishing vessel personnel. Prior to 2007, the ILO had adopted seven Conventions and Recommendations specifically aimed at fishers. These addressed the issues of minimum age for work on fishing vessels, medical examination, articles of agreement, accommodation, competency certificates, vocational training and hours of work. In March 2002 the ILO Governing Body decided to place on the agenda of the 92nd (June 2004) session of the International Labour Conference an item concerning a comprehensive standard (a Convention supplemented by a Recommendation) regarding work in the fishing sector. Since 2004, several meetings have been held and FAO has actively participated in the process of developing this new ILO standard.

The new ILO Convention No. 188 on Work in the Fishing Sector (2007) was adopted at the 96th Session (June 2007) of the International Labour Conference , with an overwhelming majority. The Convention applies to all fishers and all fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing operations and it will come into effect once ratified by ten ILO member States (including eight coastal States). The accompanying Recommendation No. 199 was also adopted with overwhelming majority. The contribution of FAO to resolve the problems concerning the crew accommodation issue was appreciated. The Convention provides for certain flexibility, such as a new innovative legal mechanism that will allow member countries to progressively implement certain parts of the provisions. It also provides for the right of port states to take action against foreign flag fishing vessels in their ports when the vessels do not comply with the requirements of the Convention. The Resolution on port State Control, which was adopted at the Conference, invites ILO to seek technical expertise of FAO and other members on port State control.

Convention No. 188 and Recommendation No. 1999 replace five of the existing seven ILO instruments specific to the fishing sector. The adoption of this instrument is a very important step in improving the working and living conditions on board fishing vessels of all sizes everywhere in the world. It is envisaged that the Convention is likely to achieve widespread ratification and should, therefore, soon enter into force.

Another important issue addressed by FAO /ILO collaboration in the sector is child labour. Children make up a large proportion of the labour force in fisheries. Children work as crew on fishing boats, as fish sorters, in fish processing factories, in fish marketing and trading and in households with fisheries-based livelihoods. They often work in diverse activities such as handling and repairing nets, diving, draining boats, painting and cooking.

To date, there has been little policy response to this issue, despite the growing concern of other agencies around safety and health and working conditions in the fisheries sector. Targeted interventions to address child labour are therefore of vital importance. Key interventions also include policies aimed at increasing household income and educational initiatives in line with paragraph 28 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, aimed at raising the quality of and access to education in fishing communities. For more information please refer to FAO/ILO collaboration on the elimination of child labour in agriculture.


FAO Focal Point: Ari Gudmundsson, FIIT (

ILO Focal Point: Brandt Wagner, SECTOR (