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Oceans and fisheries

Small-scale fisheries

Small-scale fisheries play a crucial role in the EU - they represent a significant amount of the EU fishing fleet and its fishing effort.

In 2017 small-scale fisheries employed almost 80,000 fishers, contributing to 48% of employment in EU fisheries.

Small-scale fisheries are especially important in the Mediterranean, where over half of the sector is concentrated and where it has been playing a dominant role in the livelihoods of coastal communities for centuries.

Typically, these are  family-based businesses, where owners are directly involved in the fishing activity. Together with other maritime activities, small-scale fisheries play an important role in local economies.


The common fisheries policy contains a number of provisions designed to take on board the specificities of small-scale coastal fisheries

  • the small-scale fleet is exempted from certain obligations that apply to larger vessels, such as those on fishing authorisations, landing declarations, sales notes and separate stowage
  • EU countries may grant preferential access to the small-scale fleet in the 12-nautical miles coastal band under Article 5(2) of Regulation 1380/2013
  • from a governance point of view, the rules on Advisory Councils ensure that representatives of the small-scale fisheries can participate in their meetings and that their voice is heard

Financial support

Financial means to support the sector are available under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF).

Projects related to small-scale coastal fishing can be supported with a rate of public aid of 100%, except for projects related to  i) the first acquisition of a fishing vessel by a young fisher, ii) the replacement or modernisation of an engine and iii) the increase in volume of a fishing vessel. The maximum rate for these projects is 40%.

EU countries must take into account the specific needs of small-scale coastal fishing in their EMFAF programmes, and describe the actions required for its development.

EU countries must endeavour to introduce simplified procedures for small-scale coastal fishing businesses applying for EMFAF support.

International cooperation

The EU joined other high-level representatives from the Mediterranean and Black Sea in adopting, in 2018, a Regional Plan of Action for SSF (RPOA-SSF). This plan covers a wide range of specific actions tailored to small-scale fisheries

  • better representation and participative approach
  • better share of traditional knowledge
  • improved research and scientific data
  • adequate support and training
  • appropriate control system
  • fight against illegal activities
  • support to the role of women
  • access to new technologies
  • more sustainable fishing practices

Managing small-scale fisheries

To develop appropriate management measures for small-scale fisheries, it is important to have accurate and sufficient information on their scope, stakeholders, operations and impacts.

Unfortunately, when it comes to small-scale vessels, that knowledge is far from satisfactory, as current EU fisheries control rules exempt them from accurately reporting their catches and their position while fishing.

As a result, it is difficult to estimate their impact on the stocks and their sustainable management is challenging.

In 2018 the Commission proposed to modernise the EU rules governing fisheries data and the monitoring of small-scale vessels as part of the revision of the regulation on fisheries control. The new rules would provide an opportunity for small-scale fishers to become fully involved in the long-term management of the fish stocks.