A Renewed Commitment: a decade on the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) renews its commitment to unite European small-scale fishers to achieve fair fisheries, healthy seas and vibrant communities.
Brussels, 5 and 6 November 2021: Representatives of 26 organizations from 15 European countries attended a virtual “Fisher Forum” and General Assembly meeting organized by the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE). The meeting celebrated nine years of LIFE’s existence and renewed its commitment to the cause of low impact small-scale fisheries.
This was the first time that LIFE members had met since October 2016 at the Third European Artisanal Fisheries Congress in Warsaw and marked nearly 10 years since the launch of LIFE at the First Artisanal Fisheries Congress in Brussels in 2012. It provided an opportunity to review the progress made and to discuss the challenges to be faced in the coming period.
LIFE’s General Assembly voted in a new 10-member Board of Directors, based on their representativity in LIFE’s 3 regions of operation – 3 from the Baltic and North Sea, 3 from the Atlantic (North and South), and 4 from the Mediterranean and Black Sea. LIFE Members also reviewed and approved a 5-year strategy (2021-2025) and LIFE’s revised statutes and internal regulations.
In his capacity of Senior Adviser and as one of the founders of LIFE, Jeremy Percy retraced the steps that led to the launch of LIFE, starting in 2009 with the “Green Paper Process” on the reform of the CFP. He highlighted how small-scale fishers had been able to come together at that time thanks to the alignment of socio-economic and environmental interests intent on meaningful CFP reform. Going forward it is vital for LIFE to build synergies and strategic alliances with like-minded interests to achieve common goals.
Brian O’Riordan, Executive Secretary, then gave an overview of LIFE’s progress since 2012 and the key milestones achieved. The key challenges of securing access to resources and fishing grounds on the one hand, and access to markets on the other remain the main focus of LIFE’s work.
Breaking through these barriers to achieve a level playing field and fair fisheries requires both advocacy work at EU and national level, as well as direct capacity building work with the fishers themselves. These latter aspects were highlighted by Marta Cavallé, LIFE’s Mediterranean Coordinator, in 2 keynote presentations on Co-Management and on a relatively new project of LIFE called “Foodnected”.
Cavallé highlighted that co-management provides a central plank underpinning LIFE ’s Mission to restore the health of European seas through improved governance, to bring fishers from the periphery to the centre of decision taking, and to strengthen the three pillars of sustainability. The Foodnected project is designed to pioneer alternative, more sustainable, localised and fair food systems, based on the shared values of small fish producers and consumers, providing a fair price to the fishers and a high-quality fresh and sustainable product to the consumers.
O’Riordan then presented a list of key issues for LIFE to consider for the 2022 review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). He noted how systemic failure of CFP implementation is disproportionately affecting small-scale low impact coastal fishers, undermining the sustainability of fishing communities and the natural resources on which they depend. Several participants raised concerns about the need to protect their fishing areas from the incursions of larger more powerful fishing activities; that an inshore fishing area needs to be reserved for small-scale low impact fishing under a co-management regime, with a differentiated approach to the management of larger scale off-shore fisheries and smaller scale inshore fisheries.
It was then the chance for LIFE’s Members to have their say. “LIFE Members are LIFE’s life-blood, giving life to LIFE and without whom LIFE’s actions would have no meaning” observed O’Riordan, “they provide strength in numbers, strength in diversity and strength in depth”. The short video presentations submitted by LIFE Members highlighted how much small-scale low impact fishers have in common, despite cultural, geographical, sea-basin and eco-region differences.
At heart, low impact fishing is all about using the right gear, in the right place at the right time to secure viable and sustainable fisheries, underpinned by LIFE’s Mission to unite European small-scale fishers to achieve fair fisheries, healthy seas and vibrant communities.
Given adequate support, and a level playing field, small-scale low impact fishing could provide an important part of the solution to the problems besetting Europe’s troubled seas.
Presentations from our members:
Other key documents and presentations: