Spain has some of the richest biodiversity in Europe. It is also a top fishing nation and market, both within Europe and globally. As a country it 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 is 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.

By giving those with a stake in the fishery a voice in decision-making, co-management helps fishermen to secure their own futures, and their own businesses. In turn, this sense of ownership over the future direction of a fishery increases buy-in by fishermen to new or changing management measures, and fosters collaboration between local fishing industry, policy makers, scientists and civil society. Combined, this drives sustainability in the long-term and builds resilient coastal communities.

Real success stories exist in Spain, showing that co-management and programmes of secure tenure fishing rights can provide tailored, local solutions that enhance the health of fisheries and empower fishermen.

Key actions for our work on the water in Spanish coastal fisheries include: improving science for fisheries with limited data and incorporating this into management decisions, TURF- (Territorial Use Rights for Fishing) based approaches, addressing challenges with governance and enforcement, capacity building exercises and knowledge exchanges.

Through our partnership with WWF Spain, and a cohort of fishery technicians and scientists fostered across the five years we have worked in Spain’s coastal fisheries, we are building and growing a dedicated learning network of individuals who are ‘Committed to the Ocean’ – Comprometidos con el mar - and to delivering real change for Spanish small-scale fishing communities. The Comprometidos con el mar network will soon come to life with a dedicated online portal where we will 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. Watch this space!