Small-Scale Fisheries in Europe – Status, Resilience and Governance

Editors: José J. Pascual-Fernández, Cristina Pita, Maarten Bavinck

MARE Publication Series

One of the narratives I have frequently encountered is that small-scale fisheries in their nature are backwards; they are technologically, structurally and organizationally stuck in their old ways, and they should only be preserved to the extent there is a need to show some cultural heritage to tourists. According to this narrative, policy, market and sustainability demands can only be met by concentration and upscaling. This book clearly demonstrates that the opposite is true: small-scale fisheries in Europe are diverse and include many cases where local fishing communities are up to the task of providing dynamic access to consumers of seafood products and adapting their organization and technology to new knowledge, while facing the challenges of ecological sustainability and climate change. In my opinion, this book provides a valuable contribution to the visibility and appreciation of the importance and potential of small-scale fisheries in Europe.

Small-scale fisheries are argued to be extremely important in Europe, as they provide employment and welfare, while increasing food sovereignty and maintaining communities in coastal areas. The recent worldwide focus on SSF derives from their environmental sustainability, which distinguishes many of their activities from those of large-scale fisheries. This book analyses the diversity of SSF and shows how fishing communities have  sometimes developed successful governing models, demonstrating social and economic resilience. While the book emphasizes the strengths of SSF and the synergies that occur with other marine sectors, it also presents cases of failure, in which collective action and policy have actually contributed to a weakening of the sector. In this context, the book shows how governmental policies toward SSF vary considerably from country to country, in a way that is not entirely consistent with European policies.


This book offers a comprehensive account of the status and dynamics of people participating in the small-scale fisheries (SSF) of Europe. It covers the situation of SSF in 25 coastal countries, thereby providing a portrait of almost every coastal country on the continent and analyzing the recent evolution of the sector.


The volume was developed through the TBTI and includes contributions from 70 European authors from multiple backgrounds and disciplines.

Small-scale fisheries are often considered an underdeveloped production model that must transition towards more economically efficient, industrial fisheries. This vision does not do justice to the fundamental role small-scale fisheries play in many coastal and inland water areas in Europe. Sustainable Development Goal target 14b acknowledges this role, calling on authorities to provide access for small-scale fishers to marine resources and markets. This rich collection of insights into small-scale fisheries in Europe is therefore a timely and worthy input into the efforts being made to support small-scale fisheries. Above all, small-scale fisheries are deeply rooted in culture and traditions of coastal communities and continue to make valuable contributions to food production, economic development and social cohesion. This volume paves the way for celebrating the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022.