Our work in Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the U.K.

Environmental Defense Fund is working with partners in several European countries to catalyze reforms to make sustainable fishing the norm in this important fishing region. By empowering fishing communities with secure, long-term rights, we hope to create a thriving ocean that provides more fish in the water, more food for a growing population and more prosperous communities.


fishing industry in Portugal

In the sea-faring nation of Portugal, fishing is critical to both the culture and the economy. Some of the most fishing dependent regions in all of Europe lie along its coast. Portugal has Europe’s fourth-largest number of people employed by fishing with the highest seafood consumption per capita in Europe. The great majority of Portugal’s fishing fleet are small-scale vessels operating in coastal waters.

Yet today, the future of small-scale fisheries in Portugal is uncertain; the number of vessels in the small-scale fleet continues to decline, and many fishermen are reluctant to encourage their children to enter the profession. Moreover, climate change has begun to affect stock distribution and ranges, which means that effective fishery management will be more essential than ever to ensure that both fish populations and fishing communities are resilient.

Environmental Defense Fund believes there is significant opportunity in Portugal to demonstrate the environmental and economic benefits of sustainable fisheries management and the power of co-management as a tool to achieve these ends. Together with ANP/WWF Portugal, The University of Algarve’s Center for Marine Sciences (CCMAR), the Portuguese National Oceans and Atmospheric Institute (IPMA) and the Oceano Azul Foundation, we are developing a project named ParticiPESCA to employ a tailored model of engagement with the small-scale coastal fishing fleet in Portugal to advance our shared goals of effective fishery co-management. We are helping envision the design and implementation, together with fishermen, government and other stakeholders, of a community co-management pilot for sustainable fishing backed by sound science.


Spanish fisherman

Spain has some of the richest biodiversity regions in Europe. It is also a top fishing nation and market within Europe and globally. Spain is therefore uniquely positioned to drive change in other European fisheries, especially in the South and around the Mediterranean Sea — an area where 93% of assessed fish stocks are considered over-exploited.

Working in partnership with WWF Spain, the main objective of our work in Spain has been to help improve livelihoods and protect marine ecosystems by transforming coastal fisheries through the introduction of ecosystem-based management and rights-based fishing approaches through co-management processes. Real success stories exist in Spain, showing that co-management and programs of secure tenure fishing rights can provide tailored, local solutions that enhance the health of fisheries and empower fishermen.

In partnership with WWF Spain, we built a dedicated learning network of individuals who are ‘Committed to the Sea’ — Comprometidos con el mar — and to delivering real change for Spanish small-scale fishing communities. This network includes a cohort of fishers, academics, local and national administration officials and fishery technicians and scientists. Together, we recently launched a website to share experiences from the front line of fishery co-management, provide insights into how we apply different fisheries management and science tools and gather and share stories from individuals whose lives are linked inextricably to Spain’s coastal waters.


Swedish fishing boat

While Sweden’s fishing industry is relatively small by European standards, Sweden is a vocal and influential country when it comes to sustainable fishing practices. Swedish fishermen are developing world-class fishing selectivity measures to help meet the challenges of a changing industry and began working to create management measures to comply with the Europe-wide Landing Obligation (or ‘discard ban’) long before it hit the water.

Environmental Defense Fund acted as a facilitating partner and a key resource in the development of a new management framework for demersal fisheries in Sweden. In this role, we drew on our extensive knowledge and experience from around the world in terms of smart quota management, setting up inclusive and participatory change processes and ensuring that the change brought about through collaboration is durable in the long-term.

We worked with four fishermen-led working groups and supported them in formulating their own recommendations for a new quota management system for the demersal fleet. The new system — based on individually allocated quotas at the vessel level, with in-year transferability and safeguards preventing overconcentration — has been on the water since January 2017.

United Kingdom

boats in U.K. harbor

In a post-Brexit environment, we will continue to make a strong case to fishermen and fishery managers that flexible, durable quota management systems can help build security and resilience in the U.K.’s economically and biologically significant fisheries.

With partners, we are working to ensure the U.K.’s next Fisheries Bill also considers the transboundary nature of shared stocks and the continued shifts in stock ranges and distribution as a result of climate change. Any fisheries bill must be adaptive and include mechanisms that support resilience and effectively future-proof national fisheries policy. Through our work with local stakeholders and in cooperation with Greener UK, a network of U.K. NGOs, Environmental Defense Fund is helping to create more environmentally friendly legislation in the U.K.