Artisanal fisheries

Sustainable Fisheries

Artisanal fisheries cover different realities according to the definitions used. A comprehensive study of “small-scale fisheries” in the world (Chuenpagdee 2006) identified common denominators characterizing artisanal fisheries. Thus, 65% of the countries defined them by vessel size with vessels ranging from 5 to 15 meters, others are based on the gross registered tonnage, engine power or the type of gear used.

For the European Union, like most of the 140 countries surveyed in the global estimate of small-scale fisheries, artisanal fishing vessels are less than 12 meters, without dragging gears.

For France, however, artisanal fishing designates any “ship under 24m with embedded shipowner.” This definition puts France into a special category whose standards are hardly compatible with those generally accepted (vessels not exceeding 15 meters in length).

The size criterion is often mentioned but the definition should be broader:

  • vessel size
  • selective fishing technics
  • low impact on the marine environment
  • fishing quality, valued
  • the artisanal fisherman has his boat and works on it (if he owns two boats, just one is at sea at any given time)
  • local anchorage

NGOs take the definitions most commonly used where artisanal fishing is small-scale fishing, mostly coastal, fishing techniques mostly based on static gears (nets, pots, lines) and especially at human level (the shipowner working onboard) with a strong local presence.

These vessels, due to their small scope, are extremely dependent on the health of marine ecosystems and abundance of the species targeted. Their fishing strategies are designed to alternate the fishing areas and species throughout the year in order not to undermine fish stocks and continue to fish for a long time in these geographical areas.

Today, they are turning more and more towards direct sales to make the best of their catches. This enables them to fish less but generate more income.

These fishermen have not succumbed to the temptation of public subsidies of the past 40 years, denying the dogma of “always greater.” This small-scale fishery is adapted to its environment.

But beware, all coastal fisheries are not sustainable, “Small is not always beautiful.” There are good practices at industrial level and examples of destructive small-scale fisheries. However, small-scale fishery has inherently ecological, economic, social and cultural remarkable advantages that make it “the best hope for sustainable fisheries” (Jacquet, Pauly).


Artisanal fisheries in the world

Artisanal fisheries employ 12 million people worldwide, industrial fishing half a million. (Source: Jacquet & Pauly, 2008).

Small-scale fisheries catch as much fish for human consumption as industrial fisheries, using an eighth of the fuel burned by the industrial fishing.

Small-scale fisheries use selective fishing methods and discard a small number of fish at sea.

Most of catches are used for human consumption.

Industrial fisheries discarded at sea between 8 and 20 million tons of fish per year.

In addition, industrial fleets capture 35 million tons of fish that are processed into fish meal for poultry, pigs and fish.

Globally, an industrial fisherman receives on average 187 times more subsidies to diesel per year than a small-scale fisherman although he fishes four times more fish per liter of fuel used.

“This advantage given to industrial fisheries is unfair and would have led in any other sector to a rebellion of the individuals concerned, but most are small-scale fishermen in developing countries and have almost no political influence”, says researcher Jennifer Jacquet.


The French artisanal fisheries

France AgriMer’s 2013 figures provide a global fleet of 7157 vessels with 4578 in the metropole. 3645 vessels measure less than 12 meters, that is to say 79.6% of the fleet.

Source: France Agrimer

The Ministry of Agriculture’s 2011 figures are based on 2009 estimates of the French fishing fleet. Out of 7305 fishing vessels, 4857 operate from metropolitan France (66% of the fleet).

Out of 4857 metropolitan ships, 3815 ships are less than 12 meters and thus represent more than 78% of the fleet.

In Europe, the proportion of vessels of less than 12 meters represents 82% of the global fleet. In the UK, small vessels account for 77% of the British fleet and 65% of full-time jobs in the sector, despite this, artisanal fishermen get only 4% of fishing quotas! This is why we request a priority access to quotas for small-scale fisheries.


The Coroña Statement – Spring 2010

The objective of this “counter-summit” was to bring together professionals of small-scale coastal fisheries (65 associations gathered) and produce a common statement to inscribe the issues of this fishery, the most neglected of the CFP, at the heart of European decision-making. Read the statement.


Tuna artisanal fishery

View on Rémi Parmentier’s blog the figures circulating on the assumed recovery of bluefin tuna populations:





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