Local and regional leaders call for special provisions to support small-scale coastal fisheries

​Anthony Buchanan

"Small-scale fisheries are an important economic factor in maritime cities and regions, and the EU should pay particular attention to this area. It is the rural areas where the EU needs to convince citizens of the advantages of the internal market" – thus Anthony Buchanan (UK/EA), first vice-chair of the NAT commission

The future of small-scale fisheries was today the key topic of a round table organised by the NAT commission of the Committee of the Regions. Local and regional leaders talked about the importance of the blue economy for growth and jobs and called for a comprehensive and inclusive plan for its development at local and regional level, including special provisions supporting small scale coastal fisheries

The debate was organised by the CoR's NAT commission to discuss with legislators, stakeholders and fishermen policy options for the revival of small fishing communities in the context of the decline in small scale fisheries (SSF). The discussion made clear the need for a comprehensive and inclusive plan for development of the blue economy at local and regional level. According to local and regional leaders, such a plan should include special provisions to support small scale coastal fisheries, due to their important role in local economic ecosystems. Attention was also drawn to the expertise of European regions in relation to areas like small-scale fisheries, expertise which should be shared for everybody's benefit.

Local and regional leaders invited the European Commission and the Member States to consider measures to prevent the decline of small-scale fishing. CoR members believe that all policy and funding options available in the EMFF should be used to support small-scale fishing according to the CoR members. Emily Westley (UK/PES), CoR rapporteur on technical measures, highlighted the importance of a common approach based on trust between all stakeholders and the need to assure "buy-in" of operators as regards new measures proposed in the framework of the new CFP.

Local and regional leaders stressed the importance of small-scale fisheries for coastal communities throughout Europe. Small-scale fisheries not only supply fresh fish, they also attract tourists and help addressing seasonality in tourism, creating jobs locally in isolated regions, which are often struggling economically. Coastal SSFs create a disproportionately high number of jobs in relation to their financial strength, and most of them are family-run enterprises. Seeing SSFs as a small, but indispensable, part of the local economy is manifestly important in relation to tourism, an industry that is increasingly important for coastal regions.

During the debate, the role of community-led local development (CLLD) was underlined by Ruža Tomašić (HR/ECR), MEP, who sits on the PECH Committee and is rapporteur on innovation and diversification of small-scale coastal fishing. Ms Tomašić made a strong case for supporting small-scale fisheries throughout Europe.

Among the various stakeholders attending the meeting was a delegation of representatives of FLAGs and LAGs from Croatia, a country where commercial fishing is represented primarily by small-scale coastal fisheries.