IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE - The information on this site is subject to adisclaimerand acopyright notice
  European Commission > Regional Policy

Newsroom Newsroom Commissioner Debate Issues Directorate General

Glossary | Search | Contact | Mailing lists
ContentsPrevious pageNext page


11 The Common Fisheries Policy

A geographically concentrated sector

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), initiated in 1970, has four main elements: conservation of stocks, structural measures, organisation of markets and international agreements with third countries. Overall, fishing remains an important sector in the EU economy, accounting for around 0.20% of GDP in 1997 (as against 0.25% in 1990) and 0.4% of employment (the same as in 1990).

Fishing is concentrated in coastal and peripheral areas, which are often disadvantaged. In 1997, 70% of fishermen and 60% of those employed in the fisheries sector as a whole lived in Objective 1 regions. In Greece, Spain and Portugal, the sector accounted for just over 1% of employment.

Because of this concentration, any CFP measure which strengthens the competitiveness of the sector tends to contribute to social and economic cohesion.

Areas dependent on fishing and changes in the scale of dependency

Given the concentration of the industry, the Edinburgh European Council (December 1992) officially recognised the existence of Areas Dependent on Fishing (ADFs) and the need to give them special attention.1 In terms of NUTS 3 regions, 34 ADFs (13 of which were in Greece and 11 in Spain) had, in 1997, a rate of dependency on the sector of between 3% and 15% . (See Table A.30 in Annex). At more detailed NUTS 4 or NUTS 5 regional level, dependency is higher, with around 30 ADFs (excluding Greece) having a rate of between 20% and 60%.

The overall dependency of the Union on fishing, in terms of catches, declined only slightly between 1990 and 1997, the reduction being compensated by an increased dependency on fish farming. On the other hand, the map of areas dependent on fishing has changed considerably, with Spain (Galicia and the southern Atlantic regions, in particular) showing the most marked reduction. Dependency also declined in Italy (north-east) and France (Bretagne), while it increased, most especially, in Greece, as well as in Scotland (Peterhead, Western Isles, Shetlands), Portugal (Madeira, Algarve) and Ireland (Galway). Accordingly, the regions in which dependency has risen are those where development is lagging behind.

The social and economic effects of the CFP

Conservation of stocks

In line with the principle of relative stability, fishing quotas are divided equally among Member States and have, therefore, no effect on cohesion. Conservation measures, however, are accompanied by special provisions in favour of fishing communities in ADFs: local fishermen who have traditionally fished in coastal waters of another country can continue to fish within the 12-mile limit, usually accessible only to local vessels.

Fishing effort

Between 1990 and 1997, employment in fishing declined by 19% in the EU (from 313,000 to 252,000). The fall was the result of measures taken to conserve stock and reduce the extent of over-fishing which followed the multiannual guidance programmes (MAGP) and the action taken under the FIFG - Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (structural section) - to modernise the fishing fleet. In the long-term, however, the adjustment of the fishing effort to available reserves and the restructuring of the sector are likely to arrest the decline.


Jobs in the processing sector declined by 10% over the period (from 107,000 to 96,000). This reflects both the decline in fishing and the concentration of businesses worldwide (only 50% of processing involves fish caught in the EU). It conceals, however, considerable differences between regions. In Greece, employment in processing increased by 200% and in Italy overall, by 21%, while it fell by almost 5% in Spain and the southern part of Italy. Support from the FIFG for the modernisation of businesses and the growth in fish farming have, therefore, enabled the number of jobs in Objective 1 regions to be maintained or increased.

Fish farming

The significant growth in fish farming, supported by the FIFG (and locally by the PESCA Initiative), has been translated into a substantial increase in both output and employment. Between 1990 and 1997, production in the EU (excluding Austria, Finland and Sweden) rose by 54% in cash terms (being valued at EUR 2 billion in 1997) and by 23% in volume terms (from 880,000 to 1,080,000 tons), some 85% of this rise taking place in Objective 1 regions (70% in Greece, southern Italy and Scotland alone). Employment in fish farming (excluding processing) increased by 20% (from 47,000 to 57,000), the only part of the fisheries sector in which there has been net job creation. Some 70% of job growth in the Union has occurred in Spain, Greece and Portugal. Fish farming has, therefore, developed largely in disadvantaged Objective 1 ADFs and, accordingly, has had a positive effect on social and economic cohesion.

Common organisation of markets

The COM, a means of regulation through supporting prices and direct intervention, is aimed at preventing any form of unfair competition between Member States. It includes three components which are favourable to social and economic cohesion:

a) production aids enable producers to become more competitive as regards processing and distribution, which are much more concentrated and organised, and have a positive effect on social cohesion;

b) the principle of 'regional adjustment coefficients' enables Community withdrawal prices in any given region to be varied according to market conditions or distance from major marketing centres, which is therefore favourable to regional cohesion;

c) as part of the POSEI programme for ultra-peripheral areas, a scheme has been established (under Council Regulation 1587/98) to compensate for the extra costs of selling certain products, arising from their remoteness, in Açores, Madeira and Canarias and the French Departments of Guyane and Réunion.

International fishing agreements with third countries

Evaluation undertaken in 1999 of the effects of international agreements with countries outside the EU indicates that they are important for the Union because they generate value-added (direct and indirect) of EUR 944 million and 40,000 jobs (half of which for seamen). Agreements with countries in the south (mainly Africa), which represent 75% of the value-added resulting from agreements, mostly benefit Spain (80%) and Portugal (7%), especially the ADFs in the Canarias, Andalusia, Pays basco, Galicia, Sesimbra and Olhão, and accordingly have a positive effect on cohesion.


  1. An ADF is an area (a region or local area of employment) where the contribution of the fisheries sector to the economy, in terms of employment or value-added, is so important that problems in the sector or the decline of fishing have serious social and economic consequences both directly and indirectly. Dependence is analysed in the text in terms of employment, though the same conclusions would be reached if it were measured in terms of value-added, since this has changed in a similar way over time.



Last modified on