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Article

Sustainability of the Portuguese North-Western Fishing Activity in the Face of the Recently Implemented Maritime Spatial Planning

1
ICBAS–UP, School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, University of Porto, Rua de Jorge Viterbo Ferreira, 228, 4050-313 Porto, Portugal
2
CIIMAR—Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research, University of Porto, Terminal de Cruzeiros do Porto de Leixões, Av. General Norton de Matos s/n, 4450-208 Matosinhos, Portugal
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2022, 14(3), 1266; https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031266
Received: 17 November 2021 / Revised: 10 January 2022 / Accepted: 11 January 2022 / Published: 24 January 2022
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Maritime Spatial Planning for Sustainable Fisheries)

Abstract

:
The Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) for continental Portugal was approved in December 2019 and has established a novel framework for those players that carry out maritime activities. In light of this challenge, our work addresses the current status of the fishing activity in the north-western region of Portugal, where relevant small-scale fisheries (SSF) are still well established. Based on official statistical data and a stakeholder survey, structural, economic, and social issues that significantly influence the sustainability of this industry were studied. Throughout the 2012–2019 pre-COVID-19 period, the price revalorization of primary products in first-sale markets was the key aspect that allowed fisheries to partially counteract the loss of economic value associated with the decreased fishing production (a decline of 46% of the total nominal catches). Regarding the regional fishing trade network, the fact that a given species reaches a wide range of prices in closely located major landing ports (Matosinhos, Póvoa de Varzim, and Viana do Castelo) constitutes, nonetheless, an issue that deserves attention and optimization. A survey conducted among training professional fishers confirmed a deeply rooted family/regional tradition but revealed concerns about the future generational replacement. The trainees demanded stronger support from the government, a modernization process for fishing activity, as well as higher social salary standards. Moreover, they assigned a high relevance to the sustainability of aquatic resources. In conclusion, the results shown in the present study reveal a noticeable ability of the regional fishing industry to overcome the challenging economic circumstances that have occurred in the last few years. Against the new scenario decisively influenced by the MSP, a generation of future regional fishers that pursue high social and environmental standards is certainly a solid basis for an optimistic future performance of this activity. For that purpose, a firm commitment to the use of technology seems like a key strategy to adopt in order to further the sustainability of the fisheries in the north-western region of Portugal.

1. Introduction

The Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) (Directive 2014/89/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council) is the functional tool by which the European Blue Growth Strategy [1] intends to achieve an efficient and sustainable development of the maritime sectors [2]. By ecosystem-based coordinated planning [3], the major function of MSP is facilitating the integration of different uses and human activities in maritime areas. Thus, the MSP has been a tool demanded for a long time for relevant expanding economic activities (e.g., renewable energy [4] and aquaculture [5]). Because their fishing areas might be spatially and temporally restricted in the interest of new maritime uses and activities, fisheries are an economic sector more adversely affected by the entry into force of MSP. Aside from sectoral conflicts between different scales of fisheries [6,7], protected maritime areas [8], offshore wind projects [9], and ecotourism activities [10] are just a few examples of potential “threats” for the fishing industry, in particular for small-scale fisheries (SSF). Moreover, as evidence of the EU’s concern about the co-location of fisheries and other maritime activities, European funds have recently been aimed at testing useful methodologies for an adequate spatial and temporal management of fishing and aquaculture activities in seven European case studies, including Portugal [11]. In this country, the National Ocean Strategy (NOS) 2013–2020 [12] was the earliest document drafted within the framework of MSP, and it established the basis for developing and updating the existing legal framework [13]. Notwithstanding the NOS being approved in 2013, the Maritime Spatial Plan [14], a key management tool associated with the Portuguese MSP, was not definitively approved for continental Portugal until December 2019 (Resolution of Council of Ministers nº 203-A/2019). This elapsed time has conveyed a legal and economic uncertainty that negatively affected the predisposition of the involved players, particularly concerning the fisheries’ stakeholders. Thus, knowing in detail the current status of the fishing industry, by analyzing its dynamic in terms of fleet structure, production, and economic value, is especially interesting taking into consideration the complexity of the described scenario which it must face.
The latest reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), in force since 1 January 2014, aims for the sustainability of the fisheries through an integrated environmental, economic, and social approach (EU Regulation Nº 1380/2013). Supported by science-based management plans, the continuity of a strategy based on restrictive catch limits, along with the landing obligation to reduce discards in regulated species, may be considered their most controversial actions. Although the coordination of fishing activities has always been a priority management subject for the EU, the respective policies and actions have been mainly focused on large-scale fisheries rather than SSF [15]. Being aware of the social vulnerability of this last professional group [16], modelling studies have been developed in different target regions, reporting relevant impacts derived from the implementation of the above actions on the artisanal fleet. For instance, in the Galician region (Spain), fulfilling the landing obligation for multi-species small-scale gillnet fisheries would imply a reduction of approximately 50% in the expected catches [17]. Moreover, perception studies conducted in southern Europe have revealed great difficulties, and even strong opposition, regarding small-scale fishers’ compliance with the mandatory landing obligations [18,19,20]. The SSF is a deeply rooted industry sector along the entire coast of Portugal. Diverse key issues related to these fisheries have recently been reviewed in detail, including the current situation and opportunities [21]. Without leaving the SSF as a study target, the detailed assessment of crucial social aspects linked to this profession is very valuable for policymakers, helping them to adopt adequate management strategies in the near future.
In this vein, the present work aims to assess core issues that significantly influence the sustainability of the fishing activity in the north-western region of Portugal (hereafter named as Region). Keeping in mind a full-spectrum sustainability concept, with ecological, economic, and socio-cultural implications [22], official statistical data were used to study the structural, productive, and economic dynamics of the regional fishing industry in the pre-COVID-19 2012–2019 period. Taking into consideration a marked spatial component, special focus was given to the year-to-year prices reached by the most relevant commercial species in the traditional first-sale markets. In parallel, expectations from training professional fishers were collected by a methodology based on a stakeholder survey. From an in-depth knowledge of the regional fishing trade network, the most relevant aspects that may eventually further promote or limit the sustainability of the fisheries in the Region are discussed.

2. Material and Methods

2.1. Description of the Studied Region

The north-western region of Portugal (NUT II, Commission Regulation (EU) Nº 868/2014) is a statistic-bureaucratic area with 3.6 million inhabitants (≈35% of total Portugal), and it accounts for about 29% of the gross domestic product (source: CCDRN, Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Norte, http://www.ccdr-n.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021). Its western limit is the Atlantic coastline (144 km), extending from the Minho River estuary to the southernmost limit of the Porto Metropolitan Area (Figure 1). With more than 4600 licensed fishers in 2019 [23], several fishing communities are still well established in the Region: Caminha, Vila Praia de Âncora, Viana do Castelo, Castelo do Neiva, Esposende, Apúlia, Póvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde, Vila Chã, Angeiras, Matosinhos, São Pedro da Afurada, and Aguda.

2.2. Official Information Sources

The annual series of official data (Estatísticas da Pesca, http://www.ine.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021) was the government source used to assess, throughout the 2012–2019 pre-COVID-19 period, the variability of key parameters related to the regional fleet and fishing production. According to a geographical-administrative criterion, for statistical purposes, this series assigns all catches recorded throughout the regional fishing trade network (described in detail below) to three landing ports as follows: the catches recorded in Caminha, Vila Praia de Âncora, Viana do Castelo, Castelo do Neiva, Esposende, and Apúlia are assigned to Viana do Castelo; the catches recorded in Póvoa do Varzim, Vila do Conde, and Vila Chã are assigned to Póvoa de Varzim; and the catches recorded in Angeiras, Matosinhos, São Pedro da Afurada, and Aguda are assigned to Matosinhos (Figure 1).
The number, total tonnage, and power of vessels, as well as the percentage of association of vessels to fishery cooperatives, were used to evaluate the structural changes addressed by the regional fishing fleet. The development of fishing production in the Region, expressed in terms of catches (t) and the subsequent economic value (EUR/kg), was analyzed, taking into account every landing port and the four most relevant commercial species: horse mackerel (Trachurus trachururs), mackerel (Scomber scombrus), sardine (Sardina pilchardus), and octopus (Octopus vulgaris). Their respective annual price revalorizations were calculated using the data corresponding to 2012 as a reference. Moreover, the nominal catches of each of the four major species were summed and related to the total fishing production, to determine to which extent the regional fishing production, and indirectly the market offer, was diversified.
Additional data from online auctions (from 2010 to 2019) were retrieved from the Statistical Service of “Docapesca–Portos e Lotas, SA” (www.docapesca.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021).

2.3. Regional Fishing Trade Network

The website of the above-mentioned “Docapesca–Portos e Lotas, SA” was used to compile official information concerning the regional network for fishing trade. The latter is composed of five major first-sale markets (Vila Praia de Âncora, Viana do Castelo, Póvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde, and Matosinhos), and other minor first-sale, register, and verification points (Caminha, Castelo do Neiva, Esposende, Fão and Apúlia, Vila Chã, Angeiras, São Pedro da Afurada, and Aguda).
Several different locations with a supply chain from the catch to the markets were visited throughout the Region by the research team. During such visits, that included both first-sale and retail markets, in-depth talks were held with major stakeholders, such as representatives from fishery cooperatives, small-scale fishers, retailers, sale inspectors, and costumers. This set of multi-disciplinary subjective perceptions, along with the collected official information, allowed for a better understanding of the regional logistics network.

2.4. Stakeholder Survey

Because of their key role in the sustainability of the regional fishing activity in terms of human resources, trainees enrolled in courses to achieve licenses for professional fishery were surveyed to determine their future expectations. For that purpose, a custom-made questionnaire was produced and applied by the research team. The survey was carried out in partnership with the Portuguese institution in charge of the national fishing training courses (Fishing and Sea Professional Training Centre, FOR-MAR). The questionnaire was applied in their facilities in Póvoa de Varzim, Matosinhos, Torreira, and Ílhavo. Despite Torreira and Ílhavo being outside the southern limits of the studied Region (Figure 1), the northern delegation of FOR-MAR covers the area from Ílhavo to Viana do Castelo, hence the responses collected in those places were also considered in the present study. In 2020, a total of 119 trainees attended the cited courses in the above-mentioned facilities.
The survey was implemented from June to August 2020 and consisted of a self-administered questionnaire and personalized assistance when needed. By means of a set of multiple-choice questions and assertions, the questionnaire surveyed the motivations and perceptions of 53 trainees about (i) the tradition of the regional fishing activity, (ii) the fisher profession itself, and (iii) the relationship between fisher and marine environmental sustainability. The questions/assertions were either multiple or single answer. The relative frequency of every chosen response was calculated and, later, expressed as a percentage.

3. Results

3.1. Trend of the Regional Fleet and Fishing Production

The regional fleet suffered a constant decline in the overall number of vessels between 2012 and 2019 (Table 1). Although the total tonnage and power increased slightly throughout this period, it is interesting to note the sharp drawdown experienced by both parameters in 2018. However, their later recovery in 2019 allowed them to again reach values close to those registered in 2013 and 2014, respectively. From an organizational point of view, it is interesting to note that a high proportion of vessels (94%) were associated to regional fishery cooperatives in 2019 (Table 1). For its part, the small-scale fleet (vessel < 10 m) is particularly focused in multi-gear fisheries and accounts for approximately 70% of the total licensed vessels in 2019. However, the number of small-scale vessels has declined by more than 14% over the studied period (Figure 2), presenting itself as the most affected fishing segment, excluding vessels above 40 m.
The total nominal catches in the Region decreased about 46% from 2012 to 2019, reaching an approximate value of 17,000 t in 2019 (Figure 3). In this regard, the data show a decrease of nominal catch by 78.8% in the case of sardine, as well as very severe reductions (ranging from 42.3% to 68.4%) in the remaining major species (Table 2). It is interesting to point out that, in contrast, the annual increase of 2.46-fold in terms of nominal catch (t) of mackerel in 2018 (Table 2) resulted in an increase of the total regional nominal catches in 2018 in comparison with the preceding year (Figure 3).

3.2. Price Revalorization and Diversification of the Market Offer

With an economic value of EUR 39.13 million assigned to the total nominal catches in 2019, the price appreciation of fishing product in the regional first-sale markets was 61% in relation to 2012 (Figure 3). The price appreciations for the four most relevant regional fisheries ranged between 32.61% and 127.58%, in the case of mackerel and horse mackerel, respectively, which was insufficient to fully counteract their decreased nominal catches (Table 2). Furthermore, the high variability of the year-to-year price appreciation/devaluation showed by the major fisheries—perhaps with the exception of sardine, the revalorization of which was kept more constant—is an additional point to notice.
Applying a spatial approach and considering the main three landing ports in the Region (Matosinhos, Póvoa de Varzim, and Viana do Castelo), the first is undoubtedly the most relevant one, in which more than 11,000 and 5600 t of pelagic species were landed in 2018 and 2019, respectively (Figure 4). In contrast to the dominance of purse-seine fishing, the nominal catches of octopus in 2018 were approximately similar (ranging from 441 to 558 t) in the three landing ports, but markedly higher in Viana do Castelo in 2019 (Figure 4). Taking into consideration the geographical proximity between those landing ports (a range of 60 km), the extreme disparity of prices found for a given species is particularly surprising. As an example, in 2019, the price of mackerel was 156% higher in Viana do Castelo when compared to Póvoa de Varzim, while the horse mackerel was revalorized by 69% in Matosinhos in comparison to Viana do Castelo (Figure 4).
One final remark on the trend to diversify the regional offer of fishing products: the sum constituted by the nominal catches of horse mackerel, mackerel, sardine, and octopus related to total fishing production has progressively decreased in the Region, both in tons and economic value, throughout the 2012–2019 period (Figure 5).

3.3. Online Sale Initiative

Since November 2010, five national first-sale markets, Matosinhos, Figueira da Foz, Peniche, Sesimbra, and Portimão, enrolled in online auctions (Figure 1). The maximum total fishing volume traded through this digital tool was reached in 2016 (371 t) (Table 3). However, the specific contribution of Matosinhos, the only participating first-sale market in our study case, has been scarce and infrequent during the last few years (Table 3). Thus, no trade was recorded at all in 2015, 2017, 2018, or 2019, and its peak sale volume (2.41 t in 2013) was surprisingly low in comparison with the values obtained in the same year by other online auctions such as Peniche, Sesimbra, and Portimão (105.3, 42.1, and 28.9 t, respectively) (Table 3).

3.4. Stakeholder Survey

Of the surveyed group, 83% was made up of trainees born in Portuguese coastal locations, while the remaining were citizens from Brazil, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Russia, Venezuela, and Ukraine. In total, 70% of the respondents were under 40 years, with a high prevalence of male individuals (79%). The main motivations expressed by the trainees to attend the training course are shown in Figure 6. The multiple-choice questionnaire allowed us to determine that 66% of the respondents had the ambition to pursue a career as a professional fisher; the daily allowance received to attend the course, in contrast, was the least chosen option (Figure 6).
A large majority of respondents completely agreed about the high importance of the fishery activity for the Region, but there was a lack of consensus about whether the future regional fishing activity is ensured (Figure 7A–C). Keeping in mind the use of technology to improve safety, environmental, and energy issues in facilities and vessels, participants mostly agreed about a clear need for modernization of the regional fishing activity (Figure 7D). When questioned about the greatest adversities for the SSF nowadays, the lack of support by the government (47.2%) and environmental issues were pointed as major drawbacks (Figure 7E).
Interest in the sea, admiration for the profession, and family influence were, respectively, the most prevalent motivations (above 45% in every case) marked by the questioned students to become a professional fisher (Figure 8A). Their career choice was mainly motivated by personal and professional accomplishment (above 50% each) (Figure 8B), and, aligned with previous responses, the SSF was their preferred fleet segment for the future (Figure 8C). Although far from unanimity, the trainees did not consider the standard of social protection given nowadays by the government to the fishers to be adequate, also expressing a salary expectation higher than the yearly minimum professional wage (MPW) (Figure 9A,B). Regarding the fisher profession itself, the respondents identified a wide range of key issues to be improved (Figure 9C).
A majority of surveyed trainees agreed to assign a high relevance to environmental sustainability, unequivocally expressing that routine fishing tasks should be focused on the protection of aquatic resources (Figure 10A,B). In this regard, it is surprising that only 22.6% of the participants stated that they know in detail the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries [31] (Figure 10C). Notwithstanding this apparent lack of knowledge, they clearly identified environmental issues that might negatively impact the fisheries (Figure 11).

4. Discussion

The approval and implementation of the Maritime Spatial Plan for continental Portugal [14] has legally established a new action framework for the fishing industry. Even though the involved players have recently stated that, nowadays, the conflicts between maritime activities are practically nonexistent in the Portuguese NW region, they predicted that conflicts will arise when new maritime activities intend to use maritime space currently occupied exclusively by fisheries [13]. This perception is supported by the recent conflict that arose from the installation of an offshore wind power plant in Viana do Castelo (WindFloat Atlantic project, source: EDP, Energias de Portugal, S.A., https://www.edp.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021), revealing how extremely sensitive the regional SSF is to new initiatives of maritime exploration. As an additional concern factor, the adaptation of the fleets in proportion to the available fish stocks is a key challenge to overcome, as pointed out by the Commission of the European Communities in its Green Paper on the Reform of the CFP [32]. The European fleet—against the trend to increase the size and power of the worldwide fishing fleet in the last decades [33], and although the difficulty to solve this overcapacity seems high in certain complex stocks like Atlantic cod in the Baltic region [34]—effectively decreased in terms of number, capacity, and power throughout the 2008–2018 period (source: Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat, accessed on 16 November 2021). In our study, the regional fleet in NW Portugal reduced the number of vessels but slightly increased its total tonnage and power between 2012 and 2019. The most noticeable point lies, however, in the fact that such structural changes have been largely built on vessels below 10 m. In this regard, it is necessary to take into account that to define categorically the small scale concept is not a simple matter, since their limits with respect to the large scale are often diffuse (review in [15]). In contrast, a broader consensus does exist to assign positive elements to the fishing activity practiced by the local communities, either in economic and environmental terms [35,36], or even from a heritage and socio-cultural view [37]. The results shown in the present work indicate that careful attention must be paid by the correspondent policymakers, in order to not accentuate the vulnerability of this professional group. Thus, adequate strategies and management objectives should provide the necessary technical and economic resources that guarantee the future sustainability of this fishing modality.
The regional total nominal catches decreased about 46% from 2012 to 2019, while the price of the fishing product in the first-sale markets appreciated by 61% in the same period. Such a reduction of captures agrees with the known Portuguese scenario [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30], but it is clearly in opposition to the increased fishing production registered by the sum of EU Member States (18.6%) during the 2012–2018 period (source: Eurostat, http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat, accessed on 16 November 2021). The sardine catch, a fish species deeply rooted in the popular culture, may be considered as the main reason for the referred reduction of catches in the Region, having an estimated economic impact of EUR 10.45 million. The loss of such key fishing resource has actually triggered the development of an ambitious management and recovery plan (www.dgrm.mm.gov.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021), which Portugal and Spain are now executing for this species [38]. Considering the described overall context, defined by the implementation of the national MSP, the structural adjustments in the small-scale fleet, and the marked reduction in nominal catches, to pursue increased prices for the primary product must be, certainly, a priority management objective [39]. The fishing industry in our Region successfully met this premise, allowing the industry to counteract, at least partially, the decreased fishing production. Nevertheless, this valorization of the primary product, which has decisively contributed to the sustainability of this activity throughout the last few years, presents certain unbalances: considering the four major regional fisheries, the spatial-time approach used in the present work reveals a very high price variability for a given species. From a spatial point of view, and even assuming different features to the fishing communities settled in Viana do Castelo, Póvoa de Varzim, and Matosinhos, the disparity of prices found between such landing ports is excessive, and it should be reduced in order to achieve more stable trading conditions. In contrast, the progress in diversifying the fishing products on offer is a very positive development for the regional trade, and it may help to further future sustainability. The share loss (above 30%) of the group constituted by horse mackerel, mackerel, sardine, and octopus has led minority species, such as blue whiting, Atlantic bonito, sea bass, or hake, to gain some relevance within the regional fishing production, also resulting in a more diversified market offer for consumers.
The trading of wild fishing product in Portugal is subjected to a mandatory first-sale market that must be supervised by a public authority (Decree-Law n. 81/2005, from 20 April). In mainland Portugal, “Docapesca–Portos e Lotas, SA” is responsible for supervising the price, the biometric characteristics, and the sanitary conditions of the landed fishing product, aiming to meet the stipulated environmental, quality, and safety standards. Although the regional logistics network may be considered, in overall terms, as functional and well organized, the reality is complex and deserves a careful review. The fishing production and subsequent trading is basically concentrated around the main landing ports (Viana do Castelo, Póvoa de Varzim, and Matosinhos), which are endowed with greater technical and human resources. This degree of professionalization, very heterogeneous even among the main ports, largely decreases in other minor locations (e.g., Vila Chã), where a clearly reduced market demand forces the local fishers to undersell their products. In light of this situation, some fishers choose to sell their fishing products in the referred major markets, as an attempt to increase their profits without resorting to illegal sale trading. Consequently, it gives rise to a situation where offer and demand are mutually feeding each other in major physical spaces at the expense of secondary points, enabling a price unbalance of catches aligned with the high variability discussed above. The need to mitigate this scenario is, therefore, a must, and technology should undoubtedly play a pivotal role. In this regard, effective digital marketplaces to trade fresh fishing products already exist (www.mercapesca.com; www.seafoodportal.com, accessed on 16 November 2021), and mobile applications for that purpose are being built around the world [40]. Notwithstanding such technological advances, the official online auctions promoted in Portugal since 2010 have, to date, yielded unpromising results in comparison with the traditional procedures. Especially discouraging is the case of the first-sale market of Matosinhos, whose contribution to this digital tool has been very scarce and discontinuous. However, promising expectations are placed on the project “Lota Digital”, a joint venture between “Docapesca–Portos e Lotas, SA” and “Bitcliq Technologies, S.A.”, which, since 2019, has intended to implement electronic trading procedures via an app in major national first-sale markets (https://lotadigital.com, accessed on 16 November 2021). This initiative must be taken as a representative example regarding the need for Portugal to focus and strengthen efforts on technological tools, as an attempt not only to valorize captures but also to minimize the imbalance of prices existing within the regional fishing trade network.
The group of trainees surveyed in the present work confirmed the deeply rooted fishing tradition in the Region, although they were not convinced that the younger generations could ensure its future. Interestingly, the future fishers demanded a stronger support by the government, higher social standards, and salaries above the gross minimum professional wage, currently established in Portugal at EUR 775.8/month (source: PORDATA; www.pordata.pt, accessed on 16 November 2021). It is also interesting to highlight the high relevance assigned to the sustainability of environmental resources, adequately identifying potential negative impacts such as water pollution, climate change, and marine litter. These results agree with perceptions recently expressed in a multi-stakeholder survey also conducted in the Portuguese north-western region, in which the fishery stakeholders showed a similar discrepancy with regards to the government management, as well as the existing legal framework and the planning tools, but were aware of major environmental issues [13]. The involvement of stakeholders must constitute a key element in ecosystem-based MSP [41,42], and European projects have actively promoted their participation in relevant geopolitical areas (source: European Commission, Maritime Affairs, Integrated Maritime Policy, https://ec.europa.eu/, accessed on 16 November 2021). In the same way that the view of experienced stakeholders help policymakers make sectoral decisions [43], the perceptions of future professionals are a valuable tool for predicting future trends. In this regard, the almost unanimous agreement about the clear need for modernization of the regional fishing activity achieved in our survey cannot be overlooked. Although issues related to the facilities, vessels, and fishing gears underlie the responses answered by the surveyed group, the use of technology with a trading purpose is a key element that must follow such processes. The inherent skills of the younger generations regarding the digital tools must certainly be exploited, aiming to overcome the above-mentioned trading limitations in terms of price disparity. Thus, once the fishing tradition roots and the environmental awareness seem ensured, at the expense of specialized training in this last area, the future sustainability of the regional fishing activity should largely lie on two key issues—namely, a reciprocal obligation between the government and the fishery stakeholders in social-salary terms, and a technological development that meets with the modernization process demanded by the future fishers.
In conclusion, the regional fishing industry has demonstrated throughout the last few years a noticeable ability to face the restrictive actions promoted by European policies, within a context of elaboration and implementation of national MSP. A price revalorization in first-sale markets has basically allowed them to counteract the loss of economic value associated with a decrease in fishing production, decisively contributing to the preservation of this activity. Nonetheless, the fact that a given species reaches extremely different prices in locations that are in close proximity, due to an unequal relationship of offer and demand in the different regional sale points, constitute an issue that has yet to be optimized. Referring to the future performance of the regional activity, a generation of future fishers with a deeply rooted fishing tradition that pursue high social and environmental standards encourages optimism. A firm commitment with the use of technology appears to be a key strategy to adopt in this industry, helping fishers to meet the demanded modernization process and, consequently, contributing further to the sustainability of SSF in the north-western region of Portugal.

Author Contributions

Conceptualization, A.B. and S.C.-D.; methodology, E.S.-L., A.C., V.N., J.S. and S.C.-D.; formal analysis, E.S.-L., A.C. and J.S.; investigation, E.S.-L., A.C., V.N., J.S. and S.C.-D.; writing—original draft preparation, E.S.-L.; writing—review and editing, E.S.-L., A.C., V.N., J.S., A.B. and S.C.-D.; supervision, A.B. and S.C.-D.; project administration, A.B. and S.C.-D.; funding acquisition, A.B. and S.C.-D. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding

This article was written in the scope of the project “e-FishMarket–Mercado de Primeira Venda de Pescado” (MAR-01.03.01-FEAMP0031). The APC was funded by the cited project.

Institutional Review Board Statement

Not applicable.

Informed Consent Statement

Informed consent was obtained from all subjects involved in the study.

Data Availability Statement

Restrictions apply to the availability of the data used in the present study.

Acknowledgments

The research team especially thanks the Statistical Service of “Docapesca–Portos e Lotas, SA” for providing the data from the on-line auctions; and “FOR-MAR Centro de Formação Profissional das Pescas e do Mar”, as well as the involved participants, for their collaboration in the stakeholder surveys.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Figure 1. Coastal zone of the NW region of Portugal, extending from the Minho River estuary to the southernmost limit of the Porto Metropolitan Area. Red dots indicate the three landing ports to which the total regional catches are statistically assigned: Viana do Castelo, Póvoa do Varzim, and Matosinhos.
Figure 1. Coastal zone of the NW region of Portugal, extending from the Minho River estuary to the southernmost limit of the Porto Metropolitan Area. Red dots indicate the three landing ports to which the total regional catches are statistically assigned: Viana do Castelo, Póvoa do Varzim, and Matosinhos.
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Figure 2. Dynamics of the number of licensed vessels in the NW region of Portugal, ranked by maximum length (m), between 2012 and 2019. Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
Figure 2. Dynamics of the number of licensed vessels in the NW region of Portugal, ranked by maximum length (m), between 2012 and 2019. Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
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Figure 3. Dynamics of total fishing production in the NW region of Portugal between 2012 and 2019 in terms of both total nominal catch (1000 t, left axis) and economic value (EUR kg−1, right axis). Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
Figure 3. Dynamics of total fishing production in the NW region of Portugal between 2012 and 2019 in terms of both total nominal catch (1000 t, left axis) and economic value (EUR kg−1, right axis). Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
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Figure 4. Fishing production of the four most caught species, in terms of total nominal catches (1000 t, left axis) and economic value (EUR kg−1, right axis), registered in every main landing port in 2018 (up) and 2019 (down), in the NW Region of Portugal. Data source: INE-DGRM [23,30].
Figure 4. Fishing production of the four most caught species, in terms of total nominal catches (1000 t, left axis) and economic value (EUR kg−1, right axis), registered in every main landing port in 2018 (up) and 2019 (down), in the NW Region of Portugal. Data source: INE-DGRM [23,30].
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Figure 5. Aggregated production of the four most caught species in the north-western region of Portugal in relation to the total regional fishing production (%). Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
Figure 5. Aggregated production of the four most caught species in the north-western region of Portugal in relation to the total regional fishing production (%). Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
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Figure 6. Main motivations expressed by the students in the survey conducted in the NW region of Portugal to enroll in the training course for professional fishery. Multiple answer question.
Figure 6. Main motivations expressed by the students in the survey conducted in the NW region of Portugal to enroll in the training course for professional fishery. Multiple answer question.
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Figure 7. Responses achieved in the survey conducted in the NW region of Portugal about the regional fishing traditional activity. (AD) are single-answer assertions, while (E) is a multiple-answer question.
Figure 7. Responses achieved in the survey conducted in the NW region of Portugal about the regional fishing traditional activity. (AD) are single-answer assertions, while (E) is a multiple-answer question.
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Figure 8. Responses answered by the future fishers about their motivations to become a professional fisher (A), the expectations regarding the profession (B), and the segments of fleet they intend to integrate into in the future (C). (AC) are multiple-answer questions.
Figure 8. Responses answered by the future fishers about their motivations to become a professional fisher (A), the expectations regarding the profession (B), and the segments of fleet they intend to integrate into in the future (C). (AC) are multiple-answer questions.
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Figure 9. Perceptions expressed by the surveyed trainees in the NW region of Portugal about the standard of social protection (A), salary expectation (B), and main issues to be improved in the fisher profession itself (C). (A,B) are single-answer assertion/questions, while (C) is a multiple-answer question.
Figure 9. Perceptions expressed by the surveyed trainees in the NW region of Portugal about the standard of social protection (A), salary expectation (B), and main issues to be improved in the fisher profession itself (C). (A,B) are single-answer assertion/questions, while (C) is a multiple-answer question.
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Figure 10. Views shown by the surveyed trainees about the relationship between fishers and a sustainable environment in the NW region of Portugal. (AC) are single-answer assertions/questions.
Figure 10. Views shown by the surveyed trainees about the relationship between fishers and a sustainable environment in the NW region of Portugal. (AC) are single-answer assertions/questions.
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Figure 11. Perceptions expressed by the surveyed group about environmental issues that might negatively impact fishing activity in the NW region of Portugal. Single-answer multi-question.
Figure 11. Perceptions expressed by the surveyed group about environmental issues that might negatively impact fishing activity in the NW region of Portugal. Single-answer multi-question.
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Table 1. Dynamics of major structural features of regional fishing fleet and of total licensed vessels linked to fishery cooperatives in the NW region of Portugal.
Table 1. Dynamics of major structural features of regional fishing fleet and of total licensed vessels linked to fishery cooperatives in the NW region of Portugal.
Structural ChangesOrganization Changes
YearN VesselsTotal Tonnage (GT)Power (kw)Vessels Associated to FC 1 (%)
20121281221078079777
20131260226408243976
20141245228998399776
20151215223608378585
20161176221908341990
20171161217388223091
20181137197887891192
20191131225438301194
1 FC: fishery cooperatives, Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
Table 2. Dynamics of fishing production in terms of nominal catches (t), price reached in first-sale markets (EUR/kg), and revalorization (%) of the four most caught species in the NW region of Portugal.
Table 2. Dynamics of fishing production in terms of nominal catches (t), price reached in first-sale markets (EUR/kg), and revalorization (%) of the four most caught species in the NW region of Portugal.
Fishery
Horse MackerelMackerelSardineOctopus
Nom. Catch (t)Price (€/kg)Revalorisat.1 (%)Nom. Catch (t)Price (€/kg)Revalorisat.1 (%)Nom. Catch (t)Price (EUR/kg)Revalorisat.1 (%)Nom. Catch (t)Price (EUR/kg)Revalorisat.1 (%)
201239991.01-42530.37-13,0161.19-21643.63-
201330570.73−27.3347410.30−18.9710,0291.19−0.1524672.47−32.02
201421520.89−11.4628740.381.0936991.7647.7821423.30−8.93
201533170.95−6.1131020.35−5.4745701.7949.8514963.732.89
201630040.72−28.8933760.370.0856301.5933.2925563.61−0.53
201726150.72−28.3127720.382.3841431.5429.1911655.0940.33
201820281.1716.2368200.26−29.5530041.9563.3915006.3073.59
201923081.3432.6113440.85127.5827531.8454.1710325.5051.63
1 Annual revalorization was calculated using 2012 price as reference, Data source: INE-DGRM [23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30].
Table 3. Sales volume (t) made through online auctions in every national first-sale market participating in the digital initiative promoted and managed by “Docapesca–Portos e lotas, SA”.
Table 3. Sales volume (t) made through online auctions in every national first-sale market participating in the digital initiative promoted and managed by “Docapesca–Portos e lotas, SA”.
Sales Volume in Online Auction (t)
YearMatosinhosFig. FozPenicheSesimbraPortimãoTotal
2010 12.084.350.300.122.219.07
20111.810.3715.244.287.4829.19
20122.151.2661.0616.0920.94101.51
20132.41-105.3342.1328.93178.80
20140.12-143.5452.6920.46216.82
2015--156.1263.728.58228.43
20160.4514.51268.2582.106.01371.33
2017-16.21244.1175.745.28341.34
2018-18.67175.7265.692.94263.02
2019-11.95110.4360.805.55188.74
1 Initiated in November, Data source: Statistical Service of “Docapesca–Portos e lotas, SA”.
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Salas-Leiton, E.; Costa, A.; Neves, V.; Soares, J.; Bordalo, A.; Costa-Dias, S. Sustainability of the Portuguese North-Western Fishing Activity in the Face of the Recently Implemented Maritime Spatial Planning. Sustainability 2022, 14, 1266. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031266

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Salas-Leiton E, Costa A, Neves V, Soares J, Bordalo A, Costa-Dias S. Sustainability of the Portuguese North-Western Fishing Activity in the Face of the Recently Implemented Maritime Spatial Planning. Sustainability. 2022; 14(3):1266. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031266

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Salas-Leiton, Emilio, Ana Costa, Vanessa Neves, Joana Soares, Adriano Bordalo, and Sérgia Costa-Dias. 2022. "Sustainability of the Portuguese North-Western Fishing Activity in the Face of the Recently Implemented Maritime Spatial Planning" Sustainability 14, no. 3: 1266. https://doi.org/10.3390/su14031266

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