Small-scale fisheries play a crucial role in some EU regions. This is the case of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, where they represent over 84% of total fishing fleet and employ nearly 62% of the total workforce. This is typically a family-based fishery, 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 EU gives priority support to sustainable small-scale fisheries. The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) offers financial assistance to get them involved in environmental, economic, social and cultural projects at local level. The EMFF support to small-scale coastal fishermen leaflet summarizes the opportunities for small-scale coastal fishermen.
In June 2018, the European Commission proposed a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund for 2021-2027, providing even more support to small-scale fisheries: 100% public aid, engine replacement / modernisations, acquisition of second-hand vessels by a young fisher, etc.
In September 2018, during a High-level Conference on the future of sustainable small-scale fisheries, 19 parties (European Commission, EU Member States and non-EU countries) of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), have adopted a 10- year Regional Plan of Action for sustainable small-scale fisheries (RPOA-SSF) in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea region.
The RPOA-SSF delivers an important commitment under the MedFish4Ever and Sofia Ministerial Declarations and sets an example for other regions. The plan is an ambitious roadmap with concrete and coherent measures addressing challenges and reinforcing opportunities for the small-scale fisheries by giving them voice in the decisions that affect their livelihoods, by safeguarding environmentally sustainable fishing practices and by providing economic, social and employment benefits.
Ensuring sustainability in the long term relies on a proper management of the fish stocks and the fleets exploiting them, which in turn requires a very good knowledge of the fishing activities of those fleets. Unfortunately, concerning small-scale vessels, that knowledge is far from being satisfactory as current EU rules exempt them from the accurate reporting of their catches and of their position while fishing. As a result, their impacts on the stocks is difficult to estimate and their sustainable management is challenging. For this reason, in May 2018, the Commission proposed to modernise the EU rules governing fisheries data and the monitoring of small scale vessels. The proposal is currently being debated by the Council and by the European Parliament for its possible adoption. These new rules would provide an opportunity for small-scale fishers to become fully involved in the long-term management of the fish stocks.
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On 8 January 2021, the EU and Greenland concluded negotiations for a new Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreement (SFPA) and a new Protocol that will strengthen their cooperation in the fisheries sector for the next four years with the possibility of a two-year extension.
The 2020 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet projects that in 2020, the EU fleet remained profitable overall, despite the effects of COVID-19 on the fleet and fish markets. More sustainable fishing and lower fuel costs have helped to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic.
The United Kingdom and the European Union have agreed to a Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), applicable on a provisional basis from 1 January 2021.