Sailing towards 2020: Building a sustainable future for the EU fisheries

Photo: property of FARNET

Written by Ivana Laginja, Project Manager, UNDP Croatia

The romantic views of fishermen who spend the entire nights in the open sea to feed their families have long been replaced by some other images as the fishing communities throughout the European Union face many challenges.

The average fisherman is around 60 years old, and young people don't opt very often for this occupation. The situation is not really surprising, as it is a difficult and expensive business.

Therefore, it was even nicer to see, at the conference organized by the FARNET and Directorate General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries of the European Commission (DG Mare) and held at the beginning of February in Brussels, young men from England who are engaged in the fishing industry.

In a “full battle-array”, dressed in their everyday clothes, they evoked to us their occupation in a much better way. Moreover, they were ready to talk about their job very patiently and enthusiastically. 

Selling fish on Facebook 

Young people in the fisheries also mean some new trends in the sale of fish. On one of many round table discussions, on which I have participated, there was a lot of talk about modern methods of communication with customers through social networks, which have proved to be a great tool for increasing the sales of fish, right in the times of crisis.

An excellent example of how this works was shown in the film in which Italian fishermen first photographed their catch while still on their boat, then put the photos on a website or Facebook, while customers were waiting on the coast, and already knew what kind of fish they could expect.

It should be noted that the conference was brilliantly organized, with plenty of time to interact and meet people from all over the EU.

Besides presentations and speeches of the highest representatives of the EU institutions, there were several different thematic workshops, discussions, film presentations on projects of the Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAG’s), with a variety of stalls where various projects from the EU were presented.

Numerous fish specialties also deserve praise. One of the strangest, but also the most innovative specialty was sweet caramels from Poland made with fish oil. We all tried them with great caution and askance just to conclude that they were very tasty, and without distinctive fish flavor. It seems that health and sweet tooth can go hand in hand.

The importance of small fishing communities 

Regarding the content of the conference, the focus was on the Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAG's) which are recognized as crucial for the development of small fishing communities through the promotion of a series of entrepreneurial initiatives in order to facilitate the sustainable development of the sea and the fishing industry.

In the period from 2007 to 2014, 312 FLAG's implemented more than 10 000 projects at the local level, applying a bottom-up and local development approach in fisheries and coastal areas across 21 EU Member States.

These projects have enabled investments in young fishermen, shortening supply chains, developing new activities from fisheries, adding value to local communities and connecting fisheries with tourism.

The emphasis is on sustainable development, people as the main capital and local innovative solutions in order to preserve marine biodiversity and allow sustainable fishing.

Long-term results 

Although there were just a few representatives from Croatia at the conference, we were welcomed with many compliments on our Adriatic sea and the people who work very hard in order to survive in the fishing industry.

Therefore, in the wake of the conference, it is very important that Croatia, which so far hasn’t conducted systematic work on the introduction of FLAG’s start to work on it very soon and very seriously.

Working with local communities is rarely an easy job, especially when it comes to the fishing communities, but patience and intensive work with people brings high-quality, long-term and sustainable results.

Environment Governance and peacebuilding Europe & the CIS Croatia