FAO and ILO urge countries to better protect children working in fisheries and aquaculture

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Around 130 million children work in agriculture, livestock and fisheries

Governments need to take measures to protect children from harmful work in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture, say the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO).

According to a joint guidance document by the two UN agencies, almost every country has signed international conventions to protect children, but many have not translated these agreements into national legislation.

The document says a result many children working in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture remain exposed to harsh and hazardous working conditions. It notes that they may have to dive to unsafe depths – often at night; work long hours in unsanitary processing plants where they are at risk of contracting infections; or handle toxic chemicals and dangerous equipment or gear. Girls working in fish processing depots are also at risk of sexual abuse.

FAO Assistant Director General for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Árni M. Mathiesen, said “Work of this kind is intolerable”, adding that “It affects children’s health and learning abilities, and often prevents them from attending school”.

The FAO and ILO estimate that around 130 million children work in agriculture, livestock and fisheries – accounting for 60 per cent of child labour worldwide. Case study evidence suggests child labour is a problem especially in informal small and medium-sized fishing and aquaculture enterprises and in family operations.

The report stresses that not all fishery activities children engage in are undesirable. It says some can even be positive for their development. They can acquire practical and social skills as they learn how to fish, learn how to process fish and sell them in the market.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’32″

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