Original publication: April 2017
Authors: Blomeyer & Sanz: Kim Stobberup, María Dolores Garza Gil, Aude Stirnemann-Relot, Arthur Rigaud, Nicolò Franceschelli, Roland Blomeyer
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2ksoPoE
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Small scale fisheries and “Blue Growth” in the EU

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The European Commission has developed a so-called ‘Blue Growth (BG) Strategy’ as the maritime dimension of the Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. The seas and oceans are considered to provide great potential for innovation and growth. BG focuses on five key areas – blue energy, aquaculture, tourism, mineral resources and blue biotechnology – which have been identified as having high long term growth potential. Fisheries, being a traditional maritime activity is not integrated in the BG strategy, presumably because it is perceived as having limited potential for growth. Against this background, the European Parliament has commissioned this study on ‘Sustainable Blue Growth in the EU and Opportunities for Small-scale fisheries (SSF)’, which was awarded to Blomeyer & Sanz and prepared in the period October 2016 to February 2017.

The aim of the study was to investigate the links between fishing activity and the core BG innovation strategy. Emphasis was placed on  defining what is or could be the role for SSF in BG and investigating any opportunities that BG can or should offer to SSF and coastal communities in the context of economic growth, employment and innovation.

A recent study by the OECD estimates that employment in industrial capture fisheries accounts for one-third of the total, about 11 million jobs and thus the largest employer in the global ocean economy (OECD 2016). The economic impact of SSF is not considered in the OECD study, but it states that there are about 100 million small-scale or artisanal fishers, thus implying that SSF have a very significant importance. In the EU fleets are dominated by SSF vessels, representing about 80% of all fishing vessels (48,800 vessels in 2014) and 40% of the employment in the fishing sector (29,000 FTE in 2014). SSF can be particularly important as a source of employment in remote coastal areas and as a contributor to the local economy. Although SSF catches are generally low, these have a high unit value and the product is often destined for tourist markets or local markets. The importance of SSF is even more evident in some regions (e.g. Mediterranean).

When comparing two socio-economic variables – Gross Value Added (GVA) and number of jobs – the contribution of BG sectors is far greater than that of the EU fishing fleet and the SSF sector. In 2013, BG activities were responsible for ten times the GVA and 15 times the employment that fishing activities generate. It is important to note that the coastal and maritime tourism sector is the dominant sector, overshadowing the other four BG activities (i.e. marine mining, blue biotechnology,  blue energy and aquaculture). By 2020, the importance of maritime economic activities in Europe is expected to grow at 3% per annum, to an estimated GVA of EUR 590 billion and to 7 million persons employed; these figures include fisheries, shipbuilding and ship repair, cargo and ferry, and offshore oil and gas.

Achieving the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) goal of Maximum Sustainable Yield is expected to result in significant benefits in the Northeast Atlantic alone; e.g. an almost doubling of landed value and an increase of profitability by a factor of 50. If the necessary restructuring is carried out (reduction of fishing capacity), GVA is expected to increase from EUR 1.8 million to EUR 5.76 billion in Northeast Atlantic fisheries alone, thus a strong argument for including fisheries in the BG strategy due to its economic importance and potential for growth (Section 2.2.2). It should be noted that the fisheries sector is comparable in importance with four of the five other BG activities (Table 13). For example, GVA in aquaculture was about EUR 1.6 billion in 2013 (Table 13).

Based on the case study for the Mediterranean, the main positive synergies were found between SSF and coastal tourism, biotechnology, and protected areas. There are however other positive synergies with maritime transport and aquaculture through shared facilities and suppliers. Although not investigated in depth, synergies between SSF and blue biotechnology may have relatively more potential in the North Atlantic, based on findings concerning the Arctic.

The cumulative effects of BG activities are placing an ever-increasing pressure on the available space and water (section 2.1.2), which also leads to a number of conflicts or creates the potential for conflicts. There is also potential for conflicts/tension between SSF and coastal tourism, aquaculture and protected areas, as these have more direct impact and reduce the available area for coastal fishing. SSF do not have many options, as they cannot redeploy their effort to other areas.

From an ecosystem perspective, there are many positive effects of BG activities, which are primarily of a socio-economic nature such as jobs, GVA, food security, including positive synergies with fisheries. However, the environmental impacts are generally of a negative nature, involving changes in coastal dynamics, marine pollution, eutrophication, seabed morphology and integrity. Positive environmental effects are most evident in relation to climate change mitigation through the increasing use of alternative marine energy  sources. There is concern that the cumulative burden of environmental effects would be detrimental to fisheries, including SSF (Section 2.6.2). These effects then impact on coastal communities that depend heavily on artisanal fishing. This shows the need for assessments on the local socio-economic contributions to coastal communities by BG activities (other than fishing).

The results of stakeholder consultations are generally in good agreement with the overall findings of this study and provided a focus on key issues for SSF, as well as examples of best practice. There was however limited knowledge concerning the BG strategy amongst SSF stakeholders, which shows the need for better communication and a more integrated approach. The main concerns were generally in the area of the CFP and the current struggle of SSF, primarily due to limited allocation of quota species and the current overexploitation  of many stocks. The prevailing view on BG activities appears to be somewhat wary or distrustful.

Challenges and opportunities are identified and a number of recommendations are given on how to address specific concerns or weaknesses, including proposals for a new, more integrated approach with more stakeholder involvement and actions at various levels (i.e. (EU, national, regional, and local).

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/573-450

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