Align or mis-align: new article unpacks SDGs in the context of small-scale fisheries in Europe

Authors: Alicia Said (TBTI member) and Ratana Chuenpagdee (TBTI Director)

With the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) paving the research and policy trajectories for the next decade and beyond, a discussion on the sustainability of small-scale fisheries is timely, also to propel a conversation about the integrated role of social and natural science research needed to achieve these ambitious goals. Although often considered as a (fish)ery problem, the sustainability of small-scale fisheries is much more than that, as it is interconnected to various systems including the community, the markets, the political economy, and other structures which although not always visible, have a determinant role in the viability equation of small-scale fisheries. For this reason, a nuanced and principled governance approach– away from the one-size-fits-all technical fixes conventionally used in fisheries management –is necessary to attain not only sustainability of small-scale fisheries but also the viability of fishing communities, their economies, and their socio-cultural contributions. Our commitment towards small-scale fisheries is also very relevant given that their profile has been directly elevated by SDG14b, which calls for small-scale fishers’ access to resources and markets, and this, we argue, requires a holistic governance approach which can be informed by the SSF Guidelines.

By exploring the mutuality between the principles of the two instruments (SDGs and SSF Guidelines), this article highlights that the sustainability of small-scale fisheries goes beyond SDG14b, and should be incorporated in the plans of decent economic growth (SDG8), community sustainability (SDG11), strong institutions (SDG16) and partnerships (SDG17), amongst others. Focusing on the case of the EU, this article argues that small-scale fisheries in the EU, which represent over 75% of the fleet, would benefit from more and direct attention from the governments.


The discussion about the upcoming Common Fisheries Policy reform should include consideration about small-scale fisheries in the exploration of options and opportunities, which might lead to both achieving SSF sustainability and the SDGs in the EU. The call for an integrated approach in the implementation of the SDGs and the SSF Guidelines is applicable to all countries, especially those where the values and the importance of SSF are ignored, and where the current policy directions have the tendency to further marginalize them.  


The number of paragraphs in the FAO SSF Guidelines that correspond to the Sustainable Development Goals.