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A range of small-scale fisheries can be observed in the region, with a number of highly valued species related to particular fleets and fishing methods. The sector displays a mix of traditional rights and co-operative fishing in coastal areas, often seasonal or part-time, and in some areas considerable capitalization and capacity development in the small commercial sectors. Recreational fisheries are also very important, particularly in inland waters, with major programmes of restocking and considerable economic weight.

In the marketed sector the EU Common Fisheries Policy has had a particular role in ensuring cross-community access to fishing resource, while attempting to rationalize effort and manage stocks. This has resulted in considerable reduction of effort, buyout of capacity, and increasing support of devolved and co-management approaches, derived in part from traditional models of fishing guilds, evolving to producer associations with increasing focus on market development and optimizing catch value. Though relatively small in most national economies, the sector continues to be important in many coastal areas, particularly in more remote and less serviced locations, and continues to be the focus of wider political attention.

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