Fishery statistics in detail
- Data extracted in October 2016. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: December 2017.
This article is part of a set of statistical articles based on the Eurostat online publication "Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics". It gives an overview of recent statistics relating to fishing fleets , fish catches , fish landings and aquaculture production in the European Union (EU) .
Fish are a natural, biological, mobile (sometimes over long distances) and renewable resource. Aside from fish farming, fish are generally not owned until they have been caught. As such, fish stocks continue to be regarded as a common resource which needs to be managed collectively. This has led to a range of policies that regulate the amount of fishing at the European level, as well as the types of fishing techniques and gear that can be used in fish capture.
A renewed common fisheries policy (CFP)  entered into force on 1 January 2014 aiming at an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable use of the common resource including aquaculture production. Based on EU legislation, Eurostat produces data on catches and landings of fishery products, aquaculture and the EU fishing fleet.
- 1 Main statistical findings
- 2 Data sources and availability
- 3 Context
- 4 See also
- 5 Further Eurostat information
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
Main statistical findings
Under the Common fisheries policy (CFP), reducing fleet capacity is an essential tool for achieving a sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. The EU fleet is very diverse, with the vast majority of boats being no more than 12 metres long, and a small number of vessels exceeding 40 metres in length.
The EU’s fishing fleet capacity has declined fairly steadily since the early 1990s, in terms of both tonnage (an indicator of fish-holding capacity) and engine power (an indicator of the power available for fishing gear). The size of the EU-28 fishing fleet has dropped to about 84 400 vessels in 2015 compared to 95 200 vessels for the EU-15 in 2000, although it increased by 8.0 % between 2012 and 2013, following Croatia’s EU accession. The EU’s fishing fleet in 2015 had a combined capacity of 1.6 million gross tonnes and a total engine power of 6.4 million kilowatts. .
Almost one fifth (18.2 %) of the EU-28’s fishing fleet is registered in Greece. On average, however, these Greek vessels are small, with an average size of 4.7 gross tonnes (much less than the EU-28 average of 18.9 gross tonnes) and an average engine power of 28.2 kilowatts in 2015 (compared with an EU-28 average of 75.8 kilowatts). In terms of capacity Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom had the largest fishing fleets, accounting for 53.9 % of gross tonnage and 55.6 % of engine power in 2015.
The capacities of all national fishing fleets declined or were stable between 2005 and 2015, with the exception of Poland registering a slight increase of its fleet gross tonnage. However increases in tonnage were registered from 2014 to 2015 in Latvia (26 %), Romania (11 %) and Germany (7 %), and to a lesser extent in Estonia and Poland (both 1 %). Considering the whole period 2005 to 2015, the capacity downsizing in Denmark, Ireland, Greece, France, the Netherlands and Italy was in line with the EU-28 average, but was smaller in Germany, Portugal, Finland and the United Kingdom.
This reduced capacity in the EU-28 stands in stark contrast with the upkeep of fishing fleet capacities in Iceland and Norway. The capacity of the Norwegian fishing fleet (about 328 000 gross tonnes in 2015) was similar to Spain’s in terms of overall tonnage, although Norway’s 55.7 gross tonnes average per vessel was considerably higher than Spain’s. The Norwegian fishing fleet was also considerably more powerful than that of any EU Member State. In the case of Iceland, despite having a much smaller fleet than France and Italy in terms of numbers of vessels, the overall holding capacity (gross tonnage) was very similar.
Total fishery production covers total catches in the seven regions covered by EU Statistical Regulations  as well as aquaculture production for human consumption. The monitoring of catches and aquaculture production is an essential tool for securing fish stocks and sustaining the common resources available in Europe’s large and rich fishing area . The total production of fishery products in the EU was an estimated 6.7 million tonnes of live weight equivalent (in other words, the mass or weight when removed from water) in 2014. The EU figure for 2014 suggests there was a rise in fishery production (+ 6.1 % compared with 2010), contradicting the steady decline noted over the ten previous years (– 20.5 % from 2000 to 2010). This rise in total production was only due to increased catches given the stability of aquaculture production.
Within the EU, the four largest fishery producers in terms of volume in 2014 were Spain (1.4 million live weight tonnes), the United Kingdom (1.0 million live weight tonnes) Denmark (0.8 million live weight tonnes), and France (0.7 million live weight tonnes) (see Table 4). The share of aquaculture production among these countries ranged from 20 to 27 %, with the exception of Denmark, were aquaculture made up 4 % of the total.
Total fisheries production in Spain was estimated to be 48.6 % higher in 2014 than in 2005. Production in the United Kingdom was stable in the first half of the period before increasing in the last years and recording a 15.3% rise over the whole period. A 31.7 % decline of total fishery production was observed in Estonia since 2005. Sharp production declines were also registered between 2005 and 2014 in Italy (– 31.4 %), Sweden (– 29.2 %), the Netherlands (– 29.1 %) and Germany (– 21.6).
It is also worth noting that total fisheries production in Norway (3.5 million tonnes of live weight) was larger than that of any of the EU Member States in 2014. Iceland (1.1 million tonnes of live weight) ranked third among all EU and EFTA countries. Both countries showed a different trend over the last decade, with total production expanding by 13.6 % in Norway while declining by 34.8 % in Iceland. Total production volume of both countries as a whole in 2014 was however equivalent to more than two thirds of the total EU-28 production.
The cultivation of fish is an alternative to catches of wild fish. Data on aquaculture is used by the CFP for monitoring this activity which made up close to one fifth of the EU-28’s total fishery production in 2014. Production was approximately 1.3 million tonnes of live weight in 2014. Compared to the peak production 15 years earlier, this is more than a 10 % decline, however it is within the usual range of fluctuation of the last 20 years.
The three largest aquaculture producers among EU Member States were Spain, the United Kingdom and France, which together accounted for more than half (55 %) of total EU-28 aquaculture production in 2014. There was a clear downward trend in aquaculture production in France between 2000 and 2010, fluctuating lightly around the 200 thousand tonnes mark since. By contrast, there was an overall growth in the United Kingdom from 2000 to 2010 which stabilised at the same level than France in recent years. Production volumes in Spain have fluctuated, making this country the main EU producer in volume terms since 2010 and reaching a 285 thousand live weight tonnes in 2014.
Within the EU-28 about 130 different species were farmed in aquaculture in 2014. Mussels, mostly Mediterranean and blue mussel, accounted for more than a third (roughly 470 thousand tonnes) of the total aquaculture production in terms of weight (including shells), while trouts and Atlantic salmon account for roughly another third. These species are followed by Common carp, Japanese carpet shell, Gilthead seabream and European seabass as top species in terms of weight. Despite the large total number of species produced in the EU, countries tend to focus their aquaculture production on a few species. As such, Mediterranean mussels accounted for 77 % of the live weight from aquaculture in Spain in 2014, Gilthead seabream, European seabass and Rainbow trout accounted for another 17 % while the remaining production included 42 different species. In the United Kingdom Atlantic salmon accounted for 84 % of the total national production followed by sea mussels and rainbow trout. In France (2013 data), the largest volumes were produced by Pacific cupped oyster (38 %), blue mussel (30 %), rainbow trout (15 %) and Mediterranean mussel (7 %).
From the estimated total economic value of EU-28 aquaculture production of EUR 3.93 billion, Atlantic salmon produced by far the highest economic value (almost EUR 0.9 billion) although the species is cultivated in only a few EU countries and mostly in the United Kingdom. Second most important species in terms of economic value was rainbow trout, followed by Pacific cupped oyster in third Gilthead seabream in fourth, and European seabass in fifth.
In 2014, Norway’s aquaculture production (1.33 million tonnes of live weight) was larger than the estimated value for the entire EU-28 (1.27 million tonnes of live weight) (see Figure 1). Unlike the EU’s, Norway’s aquaculture production expanded steadily from 2000 to 2014. In 2014, Norway produced 1.3 million tonnes of Atlantic salmon with a value of EUR 4.98 billion. Its 69 thousand tonnes of rainbow trout were sold for EUR 0.28 billion.
About 80 % of the EU-28’s total fishery production relates to catches. The live weight of catches for the EU-28 was 5.1 million tonnes in 2015, 5.0 % less than in 2014. However Table 7 illustrates an overall decline of about 21 % or 1.4 million tonnes of live weight since 2000.
Although the European fishing fleet operates worldwide, EU catches are taken primarily from the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean (see Table 8). Indeed, around 77 % of EU-28 catches were made in the North East Atlantic in 2015, with another 8 % from the Mediterranean and Black Sea and 5 % coming from the Eastern Central Atlantic (see Figure 2 and Map 1).
Figure 4 shows the five most popular species that were caught by EU Member States in 2015 in the North East Atlantic which is their most important fishing area. Atlantic herring was by far the most caught species representing close to one fifth of the total EU-28 catch. It was followed by Atlantic mackerel and European sprat (13 % both), then blue whiting and sandeels (6 % both). These top five species made up 58 % of the EU North East Atlantic catch in 2015.
Landings data relate to fishery products (product weight and value) landed in a country regardless of the nationality of the vessel making the landings, but also to fishery products landed by the country’s vessels in non-EU ports and then imported into the EU. Over one fifth (24.4 % or 1.16 million tonnes of live weight) of the landings to EU-28 ports in 2015 were made in Denmark, the highest share among EU Member States. Only landings to Spanish ports (0.84 million tonnes of product weight) came close to the Danish levels. By contrast, landings to ports in Iceland (1.4 million tonnes) and Norway (1.9 million tonnes) were much higher.
More than one fourth of the value of landings for the EU-28 in 2015 also came into Spanish ports (28 % or EUR 2.0 billion), reflecting the high value attached to its landings of species like tuna, hake, swordfish, squid and pilchards. Landings in Italy had the next highest value (EUR 0.9 billion), followed by the United Kingdom (EUR 0.8 billion) and France (EUR 0.8 billion). Denmark only accounted for a relatively small share (7 % in 2015) of EU-28 landings in terms of value (EUR 0.5 billion). The values of landings to ports in Iceland (EUR 1.0 billion) and Norway (EUR 2.0 billion) were closer to the values of France and Spain respectively, reflecting the lower average price of the species landed in each of these countries.
Data sources and availability
Fishery statistics are collected by Eurostat from official national sources for the members of the European Economic Area (EEA). The data are collected using internationally agreed concepts and definitions developed by the Coordinating Working Party (CWP), comprising Eurostat and several other international organisations with responsibilities in fishery statistics.
The European fisheries production statistics include production from catches and aquaculture. Catches refer to fishery products taken for all purposes (commercial, industrial, recreational and subsistence) by all types and classes of fishing units (including fishermen, vessels, gear, etc.). The flag of the fishing vessel is used as the primary indication of the nationality of the catch. In addition to catches, Eurostat also collects data on landings which relate to all fishery products (expressed as product weight) landed in the reporting country, regardless of the nationality of the vessel making the landings. Landings by vessels of the reporting country in non-EU ports and imported into the EU are to be included as well. Aquaculture production refers to the farming of aquatic (freshwater or saltwater) organisms for human use or consumption, under controlled conditions. Aquaculture implies some form of intervention in the natural rearing process such as regular stocking, feeding and protection from predators. Farming also implies individual or corporate ownership of the stock being cultivated.
Catch statistics are submitted to Eurostat by EEA member countries in compliance with the following EU legislation:
- Regulation (EC) No 218/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in the North‑East Atlantic (OJ L87 of 31.03.2009);
- Regulation (EC) No 217/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on the submission of catch and activity statistics by Member States fishing in the North-West Atlantic (OJ L87 of 31.03.2009);
- Regulation (EC) No 216/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic (OJ L87 of 31.03.2009, p.1).
The data are reported as the live weight equivalent of the landings (in other words, the landed weight of a product to which an appropriate conversion factor has been applied). The data therefore exclude quantities of fishery products which are caught but not landed. For example, fish caught but rejected at sea or fish consumed on board of the vessel. The amount of fish caught but not landed is bound to shrink in the near future due to the landing obligation in the new common fisheries policy (CFP). For the landings statistics, each EEA member country reports annual data on the quantities and values of fishery products landed in its ports under the terms of Regulation (EC) No 1921/2006 of 18 December 2006 on the submission of statistical data on landings of fishery products in EU Member States and repealing Council Regulation (EEC) No 1382/91 (OJ L403 of 30 December 2006). For aquaculture statistics, the national authorities of EEA countries submit aquaculture production data to Eurostat under the terms of Regulation (EC) No 762/2008 of 9 July 2008 on the submission by Member States of statistics on aquaculture and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 788/96 (OJ L218 of 13.08.2008).
Concerning the fishing fleet, data for the EU Member States are derived from the Community Fishing Fleet Register maintained by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. Data for Iceland and Norway are compiled from fleet files submitted by the national authorities. Gross tonnage (GT) under the London convention (1969) was adopted as the unit of tonnage measurement in the 1990s. This was a change from the previously used gross registered tonnage (GRT) under the Oslo convention (1946). Implementation of the change involved re-measurement of vessels over time. This was carried out at different rates in different countries and was largely complete by 2003. However care should be taken when comparing data between countries and over time since the GT of a vessel is generally significantly greater than the GRT.
In order to improve readability, only the most significant meta-information has been included under the tables and figures. The following symbols are used, where necessary:
- Italic data value is forecasted, provisional or estimated and is likely to change
- ‘:’ not available or confidential
- ‘-’ not applicable
The main objective of the common fisheries policy (CFP) is to ensure sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources. Fleet capacity is an essential tool for achieving this aim. The European Union (EU) fleet, however, is very diverse, with the vast majority of boats being no more than 12 metres long but a small number of vessels being over 40 metres. Under EU legislation, the total capacity of the fishing fleet may not be increased. If public funds have been used to decommission a fishing vessel, then the corresponding capacity cannot be replaced or transferred; the reduction in fleet capacity is made permanent. The CFP also sets maximum quantities of fish that can be safely caught every year: the total allowable catch (TAC). Each country’s share is called a national quota.
- Agriculture, forestry and fisheries statistics introduced
- Fishery statistics
- Fishery statistics background
Further Eurostat information
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2016 edition (Statistical book)
- Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics — 2015 edition (Statistical book)
- Fishery statistics — Data 1995–2008 (Pocketbook)
- Statistical data on the landings of fishery products in Member States and European Economic Area countries for 2008 — Data in focus 16/2010
- The EU-27 fishing fleet continued to decline in 2008 — Data 2005–2008 — Statistics in focus 49/2009
- Catches in all fishing regions (tag00076)
- Catches in the north-west Atlantic (tag00079)
- Catches in the north-east Atlantic (tag00078)
- Catches in the eastern central Atlantic (tag00080)
- Catches in the Mediterranean (tag00081)
- Aquaculture production, Total (tag00075)
- Fishing fleet, Total engine power (tsdnr420)
- Fishing fleet, Total tonnage (tag00083)
- Fishing Fleet, Number of Vessels (tag00116)
- Total fishery production (catch + aquaculture) (fish_pr)
- Catches by fishing area (fish_ca)
- Aquaculture production (fish_aq)
- Landings of fishery products (fish_ld)
- Fishing fleet (fish_fleet)
Methodology / Metadata
- Aquaculture production by species (ESMS metadata file — fish_aq_esms)
- Catches by fishing area (ESMS metadata file — fish_ca_esms)
- Fishing fleet (ESMS metadata file — fish_fleet_esms)
Source data for tables, figures and maps (MS Excel)
- Catch statistics:
Regulation (EC) No 216/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic
Regulation (EC) No 217/2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 March 2009 on the submission of catch and activity statistics by Member States fishing in the North-West Atlantic
Regulation (EC) No 218/2009 of 11 March 2009 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in the North-East Atlantic
Regulation (EC) No 762/2008 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 July 2008 on the submission by Member States of statistics on aquaculture and repealing Council Regulation (EC) No 788/96
Regulation (EC) No 1921/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 18 December 2006 on the submission of data on the landings of fishery products in Member States
- Fishing fleet:
Commission Regulation (EC) No 26/2004 of 30 December 2003 on the Community fishing fleet register
- Europa — Policy areas — Maritime affairs and fisheries
- European Commission — Fisheries
- FAO — Coordinating Working Party on Fishery Statistics (CWP)
- Based on the fishing fleet of the EU Member States active at 31 December of each year.
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) major areas 21, 27, 34, 37, 41, 47, 51 (see Map 1).