Make Fishing Fair

Public money is funding the pollution and depletion of our coasts.

Current process rewards high volume catches without considering overfishing, seabed damage or emissions. For decades, low-impact, small-scale fishers have been fishing responsibly but are overlooked. Instead, quotas and subsidies benefit those doing the most damage.

We call on the EU Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans & Fisheries to make fishing fair and to support practices better for people and planet by reallocating resources and opportunities.

Dear Commissioner Sinkevičius,

The failure to address equity in European fisheries policies has led to missed opportunities to deal with environmental degradation, economic disparities, and social injustices.1 Low-impact, small-scale fisheries (SSF) generate more jobs and greater added value per litre of fuel used whilst causing less environmental damage, in contrast to large-scale, high-impact fishing.2,3 Despite this, the sector has been starved of fishing opportunities and sectoral support over decades, impacting the overall resilience of European fishing communities.

We are calling on you to address the inequalities generated by European fisheries policies through a just transition that ends harmful subsidies and secures fair access for small-scale, low-impact fishers to financial support and fishing opportunities in Europe

The potential of low-impact, small-scale fisheries to support livelihoods, local food systems, and socio-economic activities in coastal communities has not yet been realised. Due to the partial implementation of the 2013 Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), fisheries management in Europe continues to favour large-scale, high-impact fishing, a subsector causing environmental harm, driving overfishing and significantly contributing to the climate crisis. Harmful fuel subsidies continue to benefit and maintain larger, more polluting vessels, whilst fishing opportunities in Europe are concentrated in the hands of the wealthier, industrial, high-impact fishing vessel owners, due to allocations based on historical catch records.4,5,6,7,8,9

By prioritising and providing policy support, low-impact, small-scale fisheries will play a key role in addressing Europe's overfishing, preserving marine biodiversity, reducing the fishing industry's carbon footprint, and tackling socio-economic challenges in the maritime sector.

The key to dealing with the critical state of EU fisheries and unlocking the potential of SSF is Article 17 of the CFP , which has lain dormant this past decade. By applying transparent and objective criteria of an environmental, social and economic nature to the allocation of fishing opportunities, the full application of Article 17 would reward sustainable practices and encourage a shift to low-impact fishing.10,11,12,13,14 The current focus on catch history as the basis for allocating fishing opportunities is deeply flawed, encouraging fishing companies to prioritise quantity over quality.15,16 Allocating the lion’s share of fishing opportunities to members of Fish Producer Organizations (FPOs) discriminates against smaller, low-impact fishing operators that don't meet the high-catch volume requirements of most FPOs.

Additionally, by redirecting public money spent on harmful capacity-enhancing subsidies for larger-scale, high-impact fishing, the EU should support those within the fisheries sector who provide the greatest benefits for society and the environment and restore degraded marine ecosystems.17,18

We, therefore, call on the Commission to:

  • Establish a detailed and binding implementation plan for Article 17 along with clear guidelines on how to develop and apply transparent and objective criteria to reward sustainable fishing practices and protect ecosystems and local communities;
  • End harmful subsidies and prioritise small-scale, low-impact fishing activities. In particular:
    • support SSF associations to form dedicated Producer Organisations and other marketing structures;
    • support the decarbonisation of the sector through the development of the most appropriate technology and infrastructure;
    • increase the share and widen the scope of the European Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) used to promote nature restoration and regenerative practices;
  • Ensure the processes of allocating fisheries subsidies and fishing opportunities are fully transparent and publicly accessible through the release of EU-level annual reports outlining how fishing opportunities and subsidies were allocated and to whom.

These actions, which we are asking you to implement, have become not only environmental but also socio-economic imperatives. The European Commission must urgently rethink fisheries management to drive a just transition away from an extractive industry supporting high-impact, large-scale fishing, towards one that champions the role of low-impact, small-scale fishers as guardians of the ocean.

We look forward to discussing these actions with you.

  1. Pascual-Fernández, J., Pita, C. and Bavinck, M. (2020) Small-scale fisheries in Europe: Status, Resilience and Governance Vol 23. Cham: Springer (MARE Publication Series).
  2. As per the SSCF definition in the EMFAF Regulation (Article 2.14), ‘small-scale coastal fishing’ means fishing activities carried out by a) marine and inland fishing vessels of an overall length of less than 12 metres and not using towed gear as defined in point (1) of Article 2 of Council Regulation (EC) No 1967/2006; or (b) fishers on foot, including shellfish gatherers.
  3. Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) - The 2023 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet (STECF 23-07), Prellezo, R., Sabatella, E., Virtanen, J., Tardy Martorell, M. and Guillen, J. editor(s), Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2023, doi:10.2760/423534, JRC135182.
  4. European Commission (2013). Common Fisheries Policy No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the common fisheries policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC (2013) Official Journal L354,pp. 22–61.
  5. Elsler, L.,Oostdijk, M. (2023). Better Use of Public Money: the End of Fuel Subsidies for the EU Fishing Industry. Our Fish and Client Earth.
  6. Pauly, D. (2023). Ask Dr. Pauly: Why are we giving subsidies to the fishing industry? February, 7th 2023. Oceana.
  7. LIFE. (2023). Life calls for implementation of article 17 of CFP. 9th February 2023. Accessed on: 18.12.23
  8. Carpenter, G. and Kleinjans, R. (2017). Who gets to fish? The allocation of fishing opportunities in EU member states. The New Economics Foundation.
  9. European Commission. (2024). Joint Research Centre, Van Hoof, L., Goti, L., Tardy Martorelle, M. et al., Social data in fisheries (STECF 23-17), Publications Office of the European Union:
  10. European Union. (2013). Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy. Official Journal of the European Union, L 354, Article 17.
  11. Elsler, L.,Oostdijk, M. (2024). Allocating fishing opportunities with environmental, social and economic criteria. Examples from EU member states.Seas at Risk.
  12. Kelly, F.,Hubbard, R.,O’Riordan, B. (2021). How the EU Fishing Fleet can become Low Environmental Impact, Low Carbon and Socially Just. Fishing Opportunities as an Agent of Change. Our Fish and LIFE.
  13. European Parliament resolution of 19 January 2023 on the small-scale fisheries situation in the EU and future perspectives (2021/2056(INI))
  14. European Parliament resolution of 7 June 2022 on the implementation of Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy Regulation (2021/2168(INI)
  15. Said, A., Pascual-Fernández, J., Amorim, V.I., Autzen, M.H., Hegland, T.J., Pita, C., Ferretti, J., Penca, J.2020). ‘Small-scale fisheries access to fishing opportunities in the European Union: Is the common fisheries policy the right step to SDG14b?’, Marine Policy,118.104009.
  16. Kelly, F.,Hubbard, R.,O’Riordan, B. (2021). How the EU Fishing Fleet can become Low Environmental Impact, Low Carbon and Socially Just. Fishing Opportunities as an Agent of Change. Our Fish and LIFE.
  17. LIFE (2022). Call to Action: Better implementation of the CFP through a differentiated Approach. Accessed on: 15/03/2024
  18. Bloom (2024). Time for a U-Turn. For a social-écological transition of fisheries.
Image above © Arthur Neumeier, Eyeforce
Signed by
  • European Association of Fishermen at the Black Sea
  • Association of Small Coastal Fishermen of the Adriatic
  • Scottish Creel Fishermens Federation
  • Snow change cooperative
  • Schleswig-Holstein Fisheries Protection Association
  • New Under Ten Fisherman’s Association
  • Pleine Mer
  • Mulleres Salgadas
  • Levende Hav
  • Casa dei Pesci
  • LIFE Netherlands
  • Irish Islands Marine Resource Organisation
  • Association des Ligneurs de la point de Bretagne
  • Plateforme de la petite pêche artisanale française
  • Asociación pescadores artesanales del parque natural cabo de gata nijar
  • Asociación de atuneros con linea de mano del mediterráneo
  • Medartnet Spain
  • Arts Menors Costa Brava
  • Miracanarias
  • Asociazione Pescatori Pantelleria
  • Darlowska Grupa Producentów ryb i armatorów od21 rybackich
  • The International Pole and Line Foundation
  • Erris Lobster Conservation and Restocking Association
  • Sveriges Yrkesfiskares Ekonomiska Förening
  • Pancypriot Association of Professional Coastal Fishermen
  • Zygi Fishermen Association
  • Prud'homie de Saint Raphael
  • Pescartes-Asociación pescadores artesanales del parque natural cabo de gata nijar
  • Fischereischutzverband Schleswig-Holstein
  • Wolińskie Stowarzyszenie Rybaków
  • Empesca't
  • Cofradia la restinga (Nuestra señora de los reyes el hierro)
  • Cofradía de Sitges
  • International Collective in Support of Fishworkers (ICSF)
  • District Fishermen’s Youth Welfare Association
  • Fédération Libre de la Pêche Artisanale
  • Associazione Casette dei Pescator

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