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Trends in a European coastal fishery with a special focus on small-scale fishers - Implications for fisheries policies and management

Worldwide, commercial small-scale fisheries are under increasing pressure. The study examines trends in a commercial Baltic Sea fishery with a special focus on the German small-scale fishery (both part-time and full-time fishery) over a period of 21 years (2000–2021) against the background of the declines in the two main target species of the fishery, namely western Baltic spring-spawning herring (Clupea harengus) and western Baltic cod (Gadus morhua). Landings, revenues, and the number of fishing businesses and vessels of the commercial fishery decreased over the past 21 years although the decline of the number of vessels was less pronounced for the small-scale fishery. The proportion of part-time fishers slightly increased locally. Fishers less dependent on cod and herring responded to declining revenues by diversifying their catches, and the proportion of revenues from flatfish, freshwater and diadromous fish species increased. The study was supplemented by a questionnaire sent to part-time fishers and excerpts from in-depth interviews with full-time fishers to add context to the study. The interviews indicated that family tradition, self-actualization, and nature experience but also a lack of alternatives due to the old age of fishers caused them to continue fishing despite poor economic prospects. A realistic assessment of the challenges and opportunities facing small-scale fisheries and the inclusion of social dimensions in fisheries policies are necessary, not least to develop incentives for small-scale fishers at the regional and local level to promote sustainable fisheries and facilitate fisher’s diversification.

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