EU-SSF CFP reform
process...
Paving their way to sustainable livelihoods and thriving fishing communities,

Small-scale fisheries (SSF)

For ICSF a key concern for the reform process is that due recognition be given to the rights of fishers and their communities to their customary livelihoods, based on sustainable fishing practices and under just and fair conditions. For this reason ICSF welcomes the attention given to small-scale fishing and fishing communities in the Green Paper.

ICSF’s Briefing Note on “Common Fisheries Policy Reform in the European Union and Small-Scale Fisheries: Paving the way to sustainable livelihoods and thriving fishing communities” gives an overview of the issues at stake for small-scale fisheries and fishing communities.

The Brussels workshop on CFP reform organized by ICSF and its partners on 28 September 2009 produced a declaration that sketches out a “roadmap” of issues to be addressed by the reform process of the CFP if small-scale fisheries are to achieve their full potential.

ICSF’s Contribution to the Green Paper process responds directly to the issues raised by the Green Paper, with a focus on small-scale fisheries.

Small-scale fisheries represent the overwhelming majority of fishers in all EU Member States, engaged in a wide range of activities. At subsistence level seasonal labour intensive activities may provide important additional sources of food and income to fishing families, whilst at the other extreme highly commercial, semi-industrial, technology intensive activities may have serious environmental effects, with implications for sustainable development.

Small-scale fisheries are generally community and family based, in a society rooted in traditions, local knowledge, culture. Both men and women play an important role in small-scale fisheries. Some 100,000 fishers, mainly men, are employed in small-scale fishing as crew. Working relations and practices are often based on cooperation, kinship, and local networks, where sharing (of tasks and benefits) are still important. Whilst it may be the men who dominate the catching of fish at sea, women play a key role in shore based activities. Women are a key link between fishing activities at sea and the shore based support and the wider distribution of benefits in the community and society at large.

Currently no consensus exists at EU level on the characteristics of small-scale fisheries, other than a view that under vessels under a certain size are small in scale. Indeed the issue of defining small-scale fisheries has often proved polemic, divisive and contentious, as highlighted by the WTO Doha Round Negotiations on Rules for fisheries subsidies, where after several years it has not been possible to reach any consensus.

It is therefore vital that small-scale fishing interests engage in the reform process to ensure that the criteria used to define small-scale fishing are based on appropriate logic. Such logic should transcend physical size and fishing capacity; it should seek to incorporate and otherwise make explicit the economic and social linkages that make small-scale fishing so vital to the economies, social fabric and cultural traditions of coastal communities.

Globally, the small-scale fishing sector employs the largest number of fishers and aquaculture workers, mainly as self-employed, independent owner-operators, fishing crews and casual workers, whose labour generally earns them a share of the catch. An estimated 75 per cent of the world’s fishing operations are artisanal or small-scale in nature, with the largest number of fishers and aquaculture workers—over 85 per cent of the world total—located in Asia.

Small-scale or artisanal fisheries display many advantages over large scale or industrial fisheries as regards their relatively low ecological impact and important social dimensions. Small-scale fishing generates a diverse range of inter-dependent land-based livelihoods, and, through a multitude of backward and forward linkages, provides significant indirect employment. Fish also provides an irreplaceable and affordable source of protein-rich food and essential nutrients, especially for vulnerable populations. Together, these characteristics allow small scale fisheries to make a vital contribution to local economies, to food security and trade, and to the social and cultural make-up of societies.

Efficiency in Marine Fisheries: Industrial and Small Scale Fisheries Compared


After Thomson, D. Conflict within the fishing industry ICLARM Newsletter 3(3) 3-4 1980 ; The Hidden Harvests (World Bank/FAO/World Fish Center 2010)

Fishing, among the world’s most physically demanding, risky and accident-prone occupations, depends primarily on male labour for fish harvesting fish. The role and work (paid and unpaid) of women in fisheries and in sustaining fishing communities and social networks, though indispensable, are often overlooked.

These aspects are highlighted by the report from the FAO Global Conference on Small-Scale Fisheries – Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries: Bringing together responsible fisheries and social development, Bangkok, Thailand, 13-17 October, 2008.

ICSF and fishworkers’ participation

Fishers, whether small- or large-scale, have a legitimate claim, a basic right to decent and sustainable livelihoods. The historic 1984 Rome Conference of Fishworkers and their Supporters (the Rome Conference) was perhaps the first platform that enabled small-scale fishers and their communities to claim their rights and to voice their views, concerns and visions. These were reflected in what was perhaps the first global manifesto on small-scale fisheries, the Rome Conference Report.

Subsequently, and since its founding in 1986, the International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF) has advocated that small-scale community based fisheries are the most effective way to achieve socially and economically equitable fisheries that are environmentally sustainable; goals that will not be achieved unless fishworkers are properly engaged in a process of informed consultation and participation in policy and management decision-making processes.

It is also important that the reform process take note of other international policy processes, where the “Bangkok process”, initiated by the FAO is of particular significance. In October 2008 the FAO took the important step of organizing a World Conference on Small Scale Fisheries (4SSF) in Bangkok, where over 100 people representing small-scale fishing and indigenous communities and their supporters from 36 different countries signed up to the Bangkok Statement on small-scale fisheries.

Subsequent FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) meetings (COFI 28 and COFI 29) debated the outcome of the 4SSF Conference and subsequent regional consultations. COFI 29 approved the development of a new international instrument on small-scale fisheries that would draw on relevant existing instruments, complementing the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The Committee agreed that the new instrument should be voluntary in nature, address both inland and marine fisheries and focus on the needs of developing countries, and has recommended that all stakeholders should be associated, as appropriate, with its development.