The meeting, chaired by Mark James and facilitated by the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland, addressed the cultural and economic value of small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic. A written report and video recording of the event can be found below.

Introduction – Mark James (MASTS)

Small-scale fisheries represent 80% of all vessels in the EU and 90% of all vessels worldwide. Despite this, it remains one of the most fragmented and least understood sectors of commercial fishing and, by extension, one of the worst-managed. This represents a particular challenge to employment, nutrition, and data collection globally. CABFISHMAN seeks to establish methods for co-management of fisheries which engage all stakeholders, maintain biodiverse ecosystems, and acknowledge the socioeconomic significance of small-scale fisheries to coastal communities.

Assessing the impact of small-scale fisheries – Declan Tobin (Joint Nature Conservation Committee) & Paulo Vasconcelos (IPMA) 

By developing a joint method for assessing small-scale fisheries in the Northeast Atlantic CABFISHMAN will be able to assess the connection between ecosystem damage and types of fishing gear used. We will then rank the gear types according to their estimated impact, mapping areas of the Atlantic with the most intense use of harmful fishing methods. This will allow us to propose mitigation methods to minimize ecological impacts whilst preserving fishing incomes, using a natural capital approach.

The index uses the EU Fleet Register to define the small-scale fleets, incorporating stakeholder input to outline the most commonly-used gear types. This work will then feed into the project’s Tool Development activity, providing a broader notion of the spatial and temporal distribution of impacts on small-scale fisheries in the Atlantic Area.

Measuring the economic and cultural value of small-scale fisheries – Arantza Murillas (AZTI) & David Castilla (University of Huelva)

There is a need to redirect traditional approaches to small-scale fisheries’ management to prioritise ecosystem services (employment, food provision, cultural heritage) alongside biological considerations. The main objective of CABFISHMAN’s Fisheries Natural and Cultural Heritage work is to highlight the significance of fisheries to socioeconomic welfare in the ICES regions.

By examining the Gross Added Value (GVA) of fisheries, rather than their revenue, we are able to consider the evolution of variable costs (e.g. energy cost) and understand fisheries’ economic efficiency. This will allow us to identify diseconomies of scale, which have been shown to lead to impacts on ecosystem services that are disproportionate to their economic value. CABFISHMAN’s focus on GVA allows for the consideration of new economic knowledge, available via an interactive mapping tool, to allow policy makers to fully understand the total value of small-scale fisheries. 

Natural and cultural heritage encompasses phenomena of scientific or conservation value; monuments and buildings; and abstract elements (e.g. skills and knowledge) which are recognised as important to a community’s heritage. CABFISHMAN is working to identify all elements of fisheries’ cultural and natural heritage across the Northeast Atlantic, creating a database of their total economic value as established by market and non-market based evaluation. This will form the basis of an interactive GeoTool for stakeholders, providing a holistic assessment of the true economic value of small-scale fisheries’.


The following questions were raised by attendees during the webinar discussion:

Are socioeconomic measures to be included in the matrix?
Paulo Vasconcelos replied that the matrix does not incorporate this information, however the data will be cross-referenced with data from the Tool Development activity (catch, landing, fishing effort), making it possible to indirectly establish the socioeconomic relevance of SSF.

How does this work align with low-impact definition work being carried out by DEFRA, which has a similar scope?
Declan Tobin responded that, while there are inevitable crossovers with other projects, CABFISHMAN runs in parallel with DEFRA’s work and is intended to be used as a tool by stakeholders and regulators. There is no affiliation between the two.

How will CABFISHMAN capture previous work so that it can be better informed?
Declan Tobin replied that CABFISHMAN is unique by virtue of its regional approach that focuses on collaborative effort, using a common methodology to understand transboundary impacts. It is intended to be complementary to previous work, rather than reform or reshape it.

How will local factors, for example differences in habitat and gear functionality, be taken into account?
Paulo Vasconcelos acknowledged that there are distinct variations in habitat and fishing gear across the Northeast Atlantic. To account for this, CABFISHMAN is gathering stakeholder-input from across the whole region, noting that there is a limit to how comprehensive the matrix can be whilst remaining universal.

Can we be confident that providing more information on the impacts of small-scale fisheries will change how governments spend science and management budgets?
Mark James observed that the increased capacity for data collection has already raised the profile of small-scale fisheries at a political level and, while there are no guarantees, the ability of CABFISHMAN to collate and present data is a great asset. David Castilla noted that, based on recent trends in policy at EU level, we may expect decision making to better represent small-scale fisheries in the near future.

How will you ensure that you avoid being unduly influenced by large-scale fisheries’ interests?
Declan Tobin responded that the matrix is open to contributions from all sectors and will be mediated to ensure that no one sector may have undue influence. Paulo Vasconcelos added that large-scale fisheries have strict regulations and, by extension, extensive data. CABFISHMAN specifically aims to improve the knowledge of small-scale fisheries so that the sector can be better represented.

How will the efforts be maximised in socioeconomic terms, and will impact be related to socio-economic factors such as per unit effort/catch or employment for example?
Arantza Murillas replied that economic efficiency must be taken into account, and that technologies and regulation will be combined with wider economic issues and other environmental conditions to form a holistic view of socioeconomic impacts.

Will vessel movement and fishing areas be considered when evaluating the impacts of gear type?
Mark James responded that European fleets are moving towards automatic tracking and that, in the near future, it will be possible to gain access to high resolution spatial data. This will allow for location and scale of fishing activity to be considered when assessing gear impacts.

What method are you using to quantify cultural value?
David Castilla noted that the method used varies, and is dependent on the cultural value under assessment. Current methodologies use contingent evaluation methods based on surveys. CABFISHMAN is developing a tool to standardise the main cultural elements evaluated in the research region which will allow for an adaptive approach.

How has work been received by small-scale fishermen in each region?
Mark James noted engagement in virtual forums has been strong and will hopefully be replicated across the webinar series. Arantza Murillas reiterated this, and noted that pilot studies have been well received by small-scale fishermen in the north of Spain.