An ecosystem-led approach to fisheries management specifically acknowledges and accounts for the many benefits and impacts that fisheries entail – from the effects they have on marine environments to the role they play in supporting communities. Despite its value as a comprehensive approach, it can pose difficulties in terms of assessing the many different factors that inform decisions, and synthesising them into a simple, standardised system of measurement. This is especially true for small-scale fisheries (SSFs), which are highly diverse in terms of the gears and techniques they use – and therefore the interactions they have with marine habitats – and which play an integral role in supporting coastal economies and culture.

Mapping SSFs according to their economic assessment is key to taking account of the varied services that these fisheries provide, and enabling them to be incorporated into and supported by ecosystem-led management structures. CABFishMan’s Ecosystem-driven Management work team analysed existing data from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) in order to create maps of SSF activity according to its economic value, with the aim of providing a solution to measuring the overall ‘value’ of SSFs in the Northeast Atlantic.

Why did we create maps?
Being able to visualise the economic contributions of SSFs in terms of their geographic contributions is key to allowing fisheries managers to understand where value is being derived from, easily identify areas of heavy activity, and monitor potential conflicts with other marine activities.

What about climate change?
SSF vessels are typically fuel-intensive, with fuel consumption having an impact on both the economic evaluation of the fleet, and its carbon footprint. This work included an estimation of the carbon footprint of SSF vessels across the Northeast Atlantic in order to generate an accurate estimation of the net value of SSF fishing grounds. This will allow for the future identification of trade-offs between species and habitat conservation targets, and economic growth.

Key takeaways
The process revealed that there is a high degree of diversity in the economic provisioning of SSFs between the north and south of the Northeast Atlantic, and between case study countries (Portugal, Spain, France, Ireland, and the UK).

When analysed on a regional scale, the high diversity of gears, seasonally changing target species, fishing grounds, and fishing patterns of SSFs mean that economic inefficiencies within fleets are relatively common. This, in turn, has an impact on the carbon emissions of fisheries, as there is currently little focus placed on maximising the efficiency of gears, due to their seasonal usage patterns.