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Transforming small-scale fisheries
© Latte Creative/WWF

We work with coastal communities to restore the fish stocks they depend on, and secure food and livelihoods for the long term by catalyzing relationships between fishers, local authorities and scientists.

What's at stake?

We are failing to effectively manage our finite natural resources, and to protect the coastal communities who depend on them. The increasing demand for seafood combined with the failure to establish sound management of resources has led to a state of global overfishing. The situation in the Mediterranean is particularly dramatic: today, 75% of assessed fish stocks are overfished.

Without urgent action to conserve and sustainably use our oceans, seas and marine resources (Sustainable Development Goal 14), achieving the 2030 Agenda will be impossible. Balancing habitat conservation with human use is key for successful fisheries management. Empowered small-scale fishers and their communities can serve as important stewards of their marine resources.

Men and women working in the small-scale sector face threats including climate change, competition from other industries, a lack of alternative livelihoods, weak representation, and little control over how diminishing resources are managed. In general, the sea and its resources are governed by policies crafted in offices far from coasts and coastal communities. 

Every day, we fish harder. And yet, every day, we chase fewer fish.

Sebastjian, fisherman, Telašćica - Croatia

© Carlo Gianferro
Shifting culture

The Mediterranean is a vibrant mosaic of landscapes and culture influenced by the sea. Its fishing sites are equally diverse. These are unique and complex, and need to be governed by regulations that are tailored to each site’s particular features.

The best and most effective way to do this is to involve the people that understand the local situation better than anyone else – the fishers. They have the in-depth local knowledge to ensure management strategies are adapted to suit the unique needs of the area and its resources.

By enabling small-scale fishers to sustainably manage the resources they depend on, we aim to restore the health of Mediterranean fish stocks and secure people’s livelihoods for the long term.

Engaging with fishers is the most powerful thing we can do to keep our oceans alive.

Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director, WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative

© Carlo Gianferro
Our solution

We’re actively supporting 10 Mediterranean countries to transform their coastal fisheries management and governance through an emphasis on locally-tailored management – that is, putting small-scale fishers at the centre of the solution.

WWF supports a co-management approach that values the roles and contributions of fishers and local authorities. We believe this is the most effective way to restore fish stocks, protect marine biodiversity and secure better livelihoods for Mediterranean fishers and their families. By empowering fishing communities – through better access to decision-making processes, stronger legal representation, and increased recognition within society – we want to end years of mismanagement that created a culture of non-compliance and unsustainability - and ultimately led to overfishing.

Now it’s time to take this approach throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea. We want to ensure fisheries management becomes a participatory system where adaptive decisions are genuinely shared, and where a greater awareness of environmental issues is fostered.

We want to help kick-start a movement guided by the people who depend on healthy seas for their survival.

Marco Costantini, Regional Fisheries Manager, WWF Mediterranean Marine Initiative

© Carlo Gianferro
Our approach


What the Regional Plan of Action can do for small-scale fishers

Read the report

WWF is running a major initiative across 30 sites in 10 Mediterranean countries, working with artisanal fishing communities to transform their local fisheries.

We’ve spent years building trust to support long-term partnerships, and this is now paying dividends.

© Bianco Tangerine /WWF
WWF projects on small-scale fisheries
Coastal people have the most to gain from conservation because they have the most at stake. Fishing is an inherent part of who they are.

John Tanzer, Global Practice Leader of Oceans, WWF International

© Carlo Gianferro