Small-scale fisheries and aquaculture communities play a vital role in many EU regions. They are socially important and an integral part of the food systems of the European coastal zone and some inland areas. Also, the coastal communities depend on healthy marine ecosystems and sustainable use of marine resources. However, small-scale fisheries are facing a number of challenges, including ageing fishers, access to markets, pollution, climate change and other environmental factors.
The FARNET Support Unit (FSU) is a Brussels-based technical assistance team established by the European Commission. The FSU provides guidance for Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) around the EU on the implementation of community-led local development (CLLD), a component of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). CLLD is a bottom-up approach for fisheries and aquaculture communities to develop responses to needs and challenges in their areas. Decisions- on the use of CLLD funding are made by local partnerships that bring together the private sector, local authorities and civil society organisations.
In 2019, the European Commission presented the European Green Deal, an ambitious package of measures and policy initiatives aimed at making Europe the first climate neutral continent by 2050. Along with the EU’s Farm to Fork Strategy and Circular Economy Action Plan, a key pillar of the Green Deal is the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 which has been described as a comprehensive, systemic and ambitious long-term plan for protecting nature and reversing the degradation of ecosystems. The new strategy will focus on implementing existing legislation more efficiently, with new commitments, measures, targets and governance mechanisms. For example, it aims to have 30% of Europe’s seas covered by marine protected areas by 2030. Both, the Farm to Fork Strategy and EU Biodiversity Strategy stress the need to accelerate the shift to more sustainable fish and seafood production throughout the EU.
To gain some insight into how the use of CLLD in fisheries and aquaculture can support the ambitious objectives of the European Green Deal, the FSU surveyed 348 European FLAGs across Europe.
The survey results indicate that local action supported by FLAGs is indeed contributing to various Green Deal objectives, in particular those linked with preserving and restoring ecosystems and biodiversity; fostering more sustainable food systems; and moving to a circular economy and clean energy.
It was estimated that approximately 2 600 projects contributing to the Green Deal objectives have been supported by FLAGs during the EMFF 2014-2020 period. The vast majority of the projects supported by FLAGs are small-scale in nature and, as such, the contribution of each is relatively small. Nevertheless, change is needed at all levels and this growing number of local projects can certainly make a difference. Some of the projects are already having a direct impact on the state of eco-systems and biodiversity through developing and assisting the uptake of lower impact fishing gear and aquaculture methods. Others are helping to improve marine eco-systems by recycling old fishing gear and taking measures to improve water quality. Over half of FLAGs are working to encourage a shift towards the consumption of more local fisheries and aquaculture products, as well as boosting traceability and rebuilding links between the consumer and the local primary sector.
In addition, the FSU has published a more detailed case study report demonstrating how FLAGs can contribute to the EU’s Biodiversity Strategy.