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Clarion Congress & Hotel, Polaris


Pekka Salmi & Kristina Svels

Topic: Small-scale fishers’ social struggle for survival: Collaboration in addressing the seal and cormorant conflicts along the Baltic Sea coast.


In Europe, fishing has been undergoing a continuous process of contraction and concentration in terms of vessel numbers and employment. Fisheries policies have rarely addressed the social issues associated with reduction of fishing activity and its effects on wider fishing community. In many locations, however, small-scale fisheries have survived due to the robustness of the social institutions that have helped them adapt throughout periods of economic and social upheaval. It has been argued that social struggle within and over fisheries is intensifying globally. This is also the case along the Baltic Sea coast where small-scale fisheries have been challenged by trends conveyed by industrial and post-productivist transition.

Our paper adds a northern dimension to the discussion about the future of small-scale fisheries in Europe. We illustrate the core challenges for the Baltic Sea coastal fishing: the seal- and cormorant-induced economic and social problems, which have hampered coastal livelihoods for decades – in spite of attempts to develop technical and economic governance tools. As a consequence of wide frustration among local and regional fishery stakeholders along the Baltic Sea coast, transnational collaboration for addressing the conflict was initiated in 2017. For this purpose they used a community-led local development tool under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, operated by the Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs). The resulted project  aimed at producing new knowledge about the extent of the seal- and cormorant-induced problems, and at raising public awareness about the troubled situation.

In our paper we present results from an interview survey of 22 FLAGs in 6 countries (Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Poland and Estonia) conducted in the transnational project, and study the role of the project as a facilitator of political and social struggle.

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