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Small-scale fisheries
© Darko Mihalić

Over-exploitation is seriously threatening the survival of small-scale fishers and their families whose livelihoods and income depend on dwindling catches.

What is the issue?
Mediterranean fisheries are facing serious challenges due to over-exploitation. This is threatening the survival of small-scale fishers and their families whose livelihoods and income depend on dwindling catches. Small-scale fisheries (SSF) account for around 59% of all on board employment in the Mediterranean, a total of some 134,300 jobs.

Depending on their location and the fishing gear used, SSF can also be a threat to specific species. These include commercial species, elasmobranchs (sharks, rays and skates), and turtles caught as bycatch. In addition they can harm sensitive habitats, such as seagrass meadows (Posidonia oceanica) and coralligenous assemblages.

Co-management with the small-scale fisheries community is very much needed to manage, monitor and protect marine habitats more generally. Small-scale fishers benefit, in turn, from stronger stocks and improved returns on landings.

Thanks to the Ocean Foundation's generous contribution to the project Transforming Small Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean - Phase 1, WWF established 9 co-managements in 4 countries and demonstrated the pivotal role SSFs play in bringing balance to the fishing industry in the Mediterranean, whilst maintaining profitability, valuing cultural identity and protecting marine ecosystems.
What are we doing?
Phase 2 of Transforming SSF in the Mediterranean proposes to build upon the strong foundations created in Phase 1. Over the next 5 years in Phase 2, WWF - supported by partners (i.e. FAO, GFCM, and European Commission) - aims to reduce the ecological footprint of small-scale fishing, improve fish stocks, preserve the natural integrity of coastal environments and create opportunities for the communities who call the Mediterranean home.

This will be achieved by consolidating the implementation of a Regional Plan of Action on Small-Scale Fisheries (RPOA-SSF) in the 6 most efficient co-management sites established in Phase 1; replicating the best practices developed in these co-managements; including marginalised groups (such as women and youth) in decision making; and scaling-up best practices from a co-management site level to a fleet level (1 fleet = at least 100 vessels).
Who do we work with?
Transforming Small Scale Fisheries in the Mediterranean 2 (SSF2) is a 5 year project (2023 - 2028) and will be implemented in representative areas across 5 countries; Spain, Italy, Croatia, Turkey and Tunisia. Also, WWF is supported by partners, such as FAO, GFCM, and European Commission in implementing the project.
What are the big wins?
Phase 1 of the SSF project created strong foundations for continuation of our work on small scale fisheries. A critical pillar of the success from Phase 1 was the creation of the policy framework - RPOA-SSF - which provides the blueprint for advancing the transformation of SSF across the whole region. 

The project will continue to be the largest initiative focused on the sustainability of SSF in the Mediterranean, bringing together a diverse range of partners across the entire region, and in Europe.