© Anton Sulsky / Unsplash
coastal fisheries

The striking blue waters of the Mediterranean are home to more than 700 fish species, many of which are commercially traded, such as bogues and sardines, as well as the king of commercial fish, the red fin tuna, which enters the closed Mediterranean basin exclusively to spawn. From one end of the Mediterranean to the other, small fishing boats rock to the rhythm of the waves, and thousands of small scale fishermen cast and gather their nets every day to make a living. Since ancient times, these fishermen have been a critical economic and social group, as they represent 80% of the total fishing fleet and 60% of the jobs in the sector. 

However, the Mediterranean and its fishermen are at a crucial crossroads of history. The seas are under intense pressure, and fishermen are seeing their income and their profession threatened with extinction. According to all available data, 80% of fish are caught to such extents that their populations cannot recover; in other words, they are overfished. At the same time however, fishermen and women are facing the consequences brought about by the climate crisis on the marine environment, and competition from other marine sectors , without any alternative livelihoods, and usually without being heard in the decision-making centres. The COVID-19 crisis proved in the most painful way how fragile and difficult reality is for these people, who saw their income suddenly disappear. If we do not create sustainable fisheries, the combination of the above threats may prove catastrophic. 

These people's lives depend on the sea and the sea depends on them.


The small scale fishers of the Mediterranean create jobs for an additional 150,000 people around the Mediterranean.

Greece is the country with the most small scale fishers. 

The profits of Mediterranean small scale fishers correspond to 26% of the fishing activity in the Mediterranean.


We felt the need to explore the issue in depth and search for solutions. We recorded the challenges of the sector, we studied the particularities of each country, and we spoke with fisher and representatives of the competent decision-making agencies and the supply chain. Thus, together with the WWF national offices of Spain, France, and Italy, the Adria office  that is active in Slovenia, Albania, and Croatia, the Mediterranean office and the North Africa office, which works in Tunisia and Algeria, we designed the ‘Transforming small-scale fisheries in the Mediterranean’ programme, aiming to keep the Mediterranean and coastal fishers community alive.  

In Greece, we decided to work with the coastal fishermen of the northern Cyclades. We have created a “table” for consultation, where, together with the fishermen and representatives of the state, the scientific community, and other NGOs, we try to find solutions that will benefit both the marine environment and their livelihoods. Through this initiative, we are jointly searching for the suitable measures that must be put into place in the areas where they fish, always taking into account scientific data and their own experience. Besides, no one knows their area and its particularities better than they do. Thus, by giving fishermen a voice in the decision-making process, the measures being proposed are more effective and they become part of the solution.

At the same time, we propose alternatives to improve their standard of living. One of the most important problems of small-scale coastal fisheries is that they now have more expenses and make greater efforts, without getting the corresponding income. So, as part of a series of training actions, we are empowering fishermen and at the same time proposing alternatives, such as fishing tourism, to increase their income. 

Lastly, we are closing the circle by getting the supply chain involved, along with Greece’s heavy artillery: tourism. We are planning ways of promoting and distributing catches, while also promoting fishermen’s work. We are thus aiming to make available on the market fish that have been caught sustainably, respecting fishermen’s efforts and respecting consumers who want to know how the fish they are eating was caught. 

What is sustainable fishing tourism?

Project leader: Michalis Margaritis


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