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Marine biologists are optimising fishing practices in Europe

Oceanologists are using their knowledge to help fishermen increase their income while improving the sustainability of their catches. If implemented across Europe, it could transform the fishing industry in the Mediterranean.

Though there’s been a lot of talk about unsustainable fishing in recent years, it’s important to remember that all fishermen are not created equal.

Amongst the most problematic are industrial-sized fishing organisations and large fleets of trawling vessels, which obliterate plant life on the sea floor and trap all marine animals in their wake.

Often forgotten are small-scale fishers, who use small nets, cages, or individual poles and lines to make their catches. These kinds of practices are conducted by at least half of Europe’s fishing sector, but those utilising this method are regularly left out of official decision-making in the sector.

With large populations of fish being scooped up by industrial fishing companies, independent fishermen across Europe are looking to the knowledge of ocean experts in order to stay afloat.


In Croatia, oceanologists are working alongside village fishermen in Zagreb to optimise their fishing practices in terms of profit and sustainability.

An in-depth analysis of catch type and fishing gear is informing academics on which mesh and cage sizes are best to use. When implemented, this allows only animals of full size to be caught, resulting in less sorting time for fishermen and better payout on the market.

In short, using the right gear allows fishermen to work smarter, not harder.

Not only can small-scale fishermen profit more from sustainable catches, but new nets leave young animals behind to continue repopulating the species. When accidentally caught, appropriate nets also increase the animal’s chances of survival.


Smarter, sustainable fishing practices like those unfolding in the Mediterranean will serve to benefit people and the planet. However, the cost of new fishing gear means it is not always a cheap switch.

For now, small-scale fishers rely on financial assistance from the European programmes run by the World Wildlife Foundation’s Mediterranean Program Office.

It’s positive news that support is available, but the hope is that success stories like those in Croatia will attract the attention of other international NGOs. The WWF points out that large-scale fisheries too often dominate government policy debates.

In order to achieve significant change, they believe that collaboration between fishers, scientists, NGOs and policy-makers is absolutely necessary.

As always, the same could be said for other problems that intersect socially, financially, and environmentally. Let’s hope that we see more of this cohesion in the future.


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