This case study involves assessing the role of commercial fishing in a Blue Growth strategy. The fishing industry of the Bay of Biscay will be used as a living lab to illustrate ways in which commercial fishing can make its transition towards a more sustainable industry. It will not focus exclusively on the potential for sustainable jobs and growth of commercial fisheries, but will also consider sustainability from environmental and institutional perspectives. This will be done by compiling time series data on environmental, socioeconomic and institutional factors that will help to explain how the fishing industry of the Bay of Biscay has evolved over time. In turn, this will be followed up with interviews with stakeholders in order to learn their view on the types of development that they would see as being in line with the ambition and objectives of the Blue Growth agenda. These outputs will be used to develop guiding principles towards sustainability and further develop transition pathways for Blue Growth in other fishing industries across the Atlantic Arc. This case study is being led by a joint AZTI- UPV/EHU team.
Fishing in the Bay of Biscay
Blue Growth pathway for commercial fishing
This study assesses the impact of fishing on marine ecosystems, taking into account fish stocks sustainability and the social and economic impacts of the activity. Commercial fishing uses different fishing gears (trawling, long-lines, or artisanal fisheries, among others) that exert various pressures on the marine environment. We identified the impacts of each economic fishing fleet on the marine environment through their impact on specific ecosystem services. The impact of each fishing fleet impact on the marine environment is different depending on their activity and the fishing gear used but also depending on which ecosystem is being affected. As we are interested in the sustainability of the fishing activity, this study combines an impact index developed in the MOSES project (the interface is available for stakeholders, https://aztigps.shinyapps.io/Moses/, using the password: MOSES_AZTI) with a sustainability factor for the targeted fish stocks.
The impact index considers the impact of the commercial fishing activity on the marine environment including not only the traditional business indicators (Added Value, Profits, Employment) but also indicators related to the use of the sea by this activity (frequency of the activity, extension of the sea needed) and ecological indicators to consider possible impacts of the activity on the marine ecosystem services.
The sustainability factor is a second index based on the status of the stocks comprising the catch-portfolio of each fishing fleet. This sustainability factor considers that diversification of the portfolio is not, necessarily, the best option to guarantee the sustainability of fish stocks when TACs or other management measures are in place. Combining these approaches enables us to better understand the trade-offs between various policy options. For example, if policy focuses on changing the landings portfolio, aiming for a higher sustainability factor, the likely lower efficiency of the new portfolio of landings compared to the previous one may require higher activity than before. This higher activity will result in a higher impact on the ecosystem services. Therefore, both indexes are to be considered jointly to analyse the Blue Growth Pathway of commercial fishing.
In this study, we apply this approach to five different fishing segments in the Basque fishing fleet, including the inshore and offshore fleets. Inshore fleets target different species (fish stocks), many of which have no stock assessment. Offshore fleets target a smaller number of fish stocks and these, normally, face a total catch limit, although the total catches can be as high as those of the artisanal fisheries. We also engaged with key stakeholders to better understand their perception of sustainability within the fishing sector.
The main finding of this study is that consideration of stock status and carbon footprint are important but that these are not the only variables to consider. Issues such as the intensity of the activity or the vulnerability of the area may be of great importance to design future blue growth pathways for commercial fishing.