Adri.SmArtFish, a joint Italian Croatian project to benefit small-scale fishermen in the northern Adriatic

by Thomas Jensen

EM1 20 HRHelping small-scale fishers promotes Blue Growth

This article featured in EUROFISH Magazine 1 2020

The project Adri.SmArtFish unites Italian and Croatian regions of the northern Adriatic, together with two pre-eminent research centres and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Croatia, in an effort to promote sustainability, innovation and co-creation (the collaborative development of value using customers, suppliers etc.) in small-scale fisheries (SSF) policy-making while preserving marine resources and local traditions and enhancing the competitiveness of small-scale fishermen through cross-border cooperation.

Small-scale fisheries in the countries facing the northern Adriatic have a tradition dating back many centuries. Today, they offer a way of sustainably exploiting marine resources, thanks to the understanding of biological and climatic cycles the operators must develop, the selectivity of the gear used, and the low catch rate. This fragile fisheries segment is facing challenges due to the decline of resources and the competition from industrial fisheries, as well as a lack of organisation and representation, and poor valorisation of the products.

Small-scale fisheries make a vital contribution to Blue Growth

According to the EU definition, fishing by vessels smaller than 12 m overall length (LOA) and without towed gear is termed small-scale. Worldwide, SSF are the most important segment of coastal fisheries as they are closely linked to local coastal communities in terms of culture and socio-economic development. In addition, small-scale fishermen have adapted to their local marine environment, with which they have co-evolved, making their activities inherently sustainable. For these reasons, they are acknowledged by the EU and the FAO, among other institutions, for playing a major role in the pursuit of Blue Growth, the long-term strategy of sustainable economic development in the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

The project area is in the northern Adriatic (FAO Geographic Subarea GSA 17), where the SSF sector represents about 50% of the Italian, and around 77% of the Croatian fleets. The cross-border cooperation has been established due to the exploitation of shared natural resources, common problems and challenges surrounding those resources, and also because of the joint interests among small-scale coastal fisherman of both countries. Some of the common challenges facing the sector include a lack of competitiveness in relation to industrial forms of fishing, difficulties in accessing the market, low prices, the lack of fishermen’s associations, which both reduces access to information and the ability to shape policy making These problems in turn lead ultimately to higher costs and lower incomes. In addition, in the project area, the SSF sector lacks adequate landing infrastructure and logistics.

Adding greater value to catches will increase incomes without affecting the resource

The general objective of the project is to rapidly strengthen the role of the small-scale fisheries sector throughout the project area by encouraging, promoting, and stimulating its potential for innovation. Here, innovation refers primarily to regulation and/or management of natural resources by implementing integrated management strategies for coastal areas; as well as to the valorisation of products to boost economic resilience and resource sustainability. The objectives of the project will be achieved by inviting all the different stakeholders responsible for the management of the coastal area, ranging from policy makers and scientists to fishermen and non-governmental organisations, to jointly contribute to activities that improve long term production planning and the policy-making process.

SSF enterprises in the project area will benefit from the creation of a sustainability certification label, the launch of a market network to sell the labelled produce, and the promotion of direct-to-consumers sales via dedicated platforms. The creation of a cross-border small-scale fishermen’s association will strengthen fishermen’s ability to contribute to the decision-making process and will also promote the science-based management of marine resources. Fishermen will also gain from the harmonisation of regulations governing the sector, another outcome envisaged by the project.

The Adri.SmArtFish project

Duration: 1/1/2019 – 30/6/2021 (30 months)

Partners (five each from Italy and Croatia):

  • Regione del Veneto (lead partner)
  • Università Ca’Foscari Venezia
  • Regione Friuli Venezia-Giulia
  • Regione Emilia-Romagna
  • Regione Marche
  • Istarska Županija
  • Primorsko-Goranska Županija
  • Zadarska Županija
  • Institut Za Oceanografiju I Ribarstvo Split
  • Ministarstvo Poljoprivrede

Total investment: EUR3,242,231

European Regional Development Fund contribution: EUR2,755,896

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