Fishery statistics

Data extracted in November 2018. Planned article update: February 2020.

Highlights
The EU produced 6.3 million tonnes of fisheries products in 2016.
The EU’s fishing fleet is becoming more efficient: a smaller fleet but a rebound in catches in 2017.
The EU produced 1.3 million tonnes of aquatic organisms in 2016 worth EUR 4.4 billion.

Total production of fishery products, EU-28, 2000-2016

This article is part of a set that is taken from Eurostat’s publication Agriculture, forestry and fishery statistics - 2018 edition. 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 renewable and mobile natural resource. Aside from aquaculture 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 EU level and more widely at sea basin level, as well as the types of fishing techniques and gear that can be used in fish capture.

Full article

Total fisheries production and employment

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.

Total fisheries production covers total catches in the seven regions covered by EU Statistical Regulations [1] as well as aquaculture production.

EU production of fisheries products was 6.3 million tonnes in 2016

The EU's [2] total production of fisheries products in 2016 was estimated to be about 6.3 million tonnes of live weight equivalent (the mass or weight when removed from water).

Production was lower (-1.8 %) than the level in 2015 and, despite an upswing in 2013 and 2014, about one-fifth (-20.8 %) down on the corresponding level in 2000 (see Figure 1). The downward trend reflected lower catches, which account for four-fifths of total fisheries production, as the production of farmed aquatic organisms remained relatively stable.

Figure 1: Total production of fishery products, EU-28, 2000-2016
(thousand tonnes live weight)
Source: Eurostat (fish_ca_main), (fish_aq_q) and (fish_aq2a)

A little over one half (54.6 %) of all EU fisheries production came from just four Member States; these were Spain (18.2 % in 2016), the United Kingdom (14.2 %), Denmark (11.2 %) and France (10.9 %). The overall decline in EU production in 2016, principally reflected lower production levels in Spain (-4.0 % on 2015 levels), the United Kingdom (-2.1 %), and Denmark (-22.1 %). In contrast, production levels in Lithuania (+43.5 %) and Latvia (+40.5 %) rebounded strongly from relative lows in 2015, although they remained about one third and one quarter less respectively than 2008 levels.

By way of comparison, it is interesting to note that total fisheries production in Norway (3.2 million tonnes of live weight) was about one half of that of the EU as a whole. Total production in Iceland (at 1.1 million tonnes) was as big as in Spain, the EU's biggest fisheries producer. In both countries though, production levels in 2016 were down sharply on those in 2015.

The fisheries industry provided jobs in the EU for about 178 000 people in 2016

A provisional 178 000 people were employed in the EU fisheries industry in 2016, of which about one third were employed in the aquaculture sub-sector.

Although Italy, Greece and Portugal only produced about a combined one-tenth (11.6 %) of EU fisheries production in 2016, they accounted for just over one-third (35.7 %) of employment. In contrast, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom accounted for much higher shares of EU fisheries production than shares of employment in the fisheries industry. These contrasts highlight the differences between the fishing industries of some countries with a relatively large number of small vessels and others with a relatively small number of large vessels (figure 2).

Figure 2: Production and employment in the EU fisheries industry, 2016
(% share of EU-28 totals)
Source: Eurostat (nama_10_a64_e), (fish_ca_main), (fish_aq_q) and (fish_aq2a)

Aquaculture statistics

Aquaculture is the production of fish and other aquatic organisms like molluscs and crustaceans under controlled conditions; it is an alternative to catching wild fish and takes place both inland and in marine areas. Aquaculture is a key component of both the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and the Blue Growth [3] Agenda to support sustainable growth in the sector.

1.3 million tonnes of aquatic organisms produced in EU in 2016, worth EUR  4.4 billion

The EU produced an estimated 1.3 million tonnes of aquatic organisms in 2016, corresponding to one fifth of the output of European fisheries as a whole. In terms of output, the EU's aquaculture sector was the eighth largest worldwide, with a 1.2 % share of the volume of global output [4].

The value of the EU's aquaculture production was an estimated EUR 4.4 billion in 2016.

Five Member States were responsible for about three-quarters of the EU's aquaculture output volume and value

Five Member States were responsible for just under three-quarters (71.8 %) of the EU's total output of aquatic organisms in 2016 (see Figure 3); Spain provided just over one fifth of the total (22.5 %), followed by the United Kingdom (15.2 %), France (12.8 %) and Italy (11.6 %), 2015 data, as well as Greece (9.7 %). In terms of value, however, the United Kingdom was the largest producer, accounting for a little less than one quarter (23.3 % or EUR 1.0 billion), of the value of the EU's aquaculture output, followed by France (14.2 % or EUR 0.6 billion), Spain (12.8 % or EUR 0.6 billion), Greece (12.0 % or EUR 0.5 billion) and Italy (10.0 % or EUR 0.4 billion).

Figure 3: Aquaculture production, 2016
(tonnes of live weight)
Source: Eurostat (fish_aq2a)

To put the EU's aquaculture industry in some perspective, the volume and value of aquaculture in Norway exceeded that of the whole of the EU; Norway produced 1.3 million tonnes of aquatic organisms (almost exclusively salmon), worth EUR 6.9 billion in 2016. Norway was the world’s seventh largest producer in farmed fisheries in 2016, with a 1.7 % global share. It was also the world's second largest exporter of aquatic organisms, after China.

All fisheries production in the EU’s landlocked countries (Czechia, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia) comes from aquaculture. In the other EU countries the share of aquaculture ranges from 92.6 % of total fisheries in Slovenia to 0.2 % in Belgium. In general, aquaculture plays a major role in the countries around the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea, where sea-fishing is generally carried out using small-scale vessels with an average capacity lower than the EU average. This helps explain why aquaculture activity plays a relatively large role in the respective fisheries industries of Cyprus (accounting for 81.7 % of total fisheries production), Malta (77.8 %), Greece (65.7 %), Romania (63.7 %), Bulgaria (59.1 %) and Italy (43.5 %).

Finfish and molluscs dominate the EU's aquaculture production

Finfish (particularly, salmon, trout, seabass, carp and tuna) and molluscs (particularly, mussels, oysters and clams) together accounted for 98.5 % of all aquaculture production by weight in the EU in 2016.

Figure 4: Main species in aquaculture production, EU-28, 2016
(% of total aquaculture production)
Source: Eurostat (fish_aq2a)

Some finfish live only in seawater, others in only freshwater and a third group can migrate between the two (these being diadromous fish like salmon, trout and eels). One half (51.9 %) of the EU's total aquaculture production volume in 2016 was finfish, and three-quarters (74.2 %) of the overall production value. Among finfish, the diadromous subgroup (mostly Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout) accounted for 28.5 % of the overall aquaculture production and 39.4 % of total aquaculture value. Molluscs (mussels, oysters and clams) accounted for 46.6 % of the overall EU aquaculture production, but only 23.7 % of value. It should be noted that the production weight corresponds to live weight including all shells and bones.

Figure 5: Aquaculture production value by main subgroups, EU-28, 2016
(% of total aquaculture production value)
Source: Eurostat (fish_aq2a)

A high degree of country specialisation within EU

Within the EU, the aquaculture sector is highly specialised at country level. The United Kingdom was the main producer of diadromous fish in the EU (about one half of the EU total) due to its salmon farms in Scotland. Indeed, the United Kingdom was responsible for just over 90 % of farmed salmon in the EU in 2016 (see Table 1). At world level, Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) was the 9th most produced finfish species and the EU contributed 8.1% to global production.

Table 1: Ten major species by main production method and production country, EU‑28, 2016
(% of total species production, tonnes live weight)
Source: Eurostat (fish_aq2a)

Spain produced seven in every ten tonnes of farmed Mediterranean mussel (Mytilus galloprovincialis), largely due to its rafts in the estuaries of Northern Spain using the 'off bottom' method. Blue mussels (Mytilus edulis) were farmed in the North East Atlantic by the Netherlands (39.9 % of the EU total in 2016), France (35.0 %) and Ireland (12.1 %). Both 'off bottom' (preferred in Ireland) and 'on-bottom' methods (preferred in the Netherlands) were used.

Greece produced almost one half of the EU's production of farmed marine fish in 2016, particularly gilthead seabream (Sparus aurata) and European seabass (Dicentrarchus labrax). Czechia and Poland were the leading EU producers of farmed freshwater fish, particularly common carp (Cyprinus carpio), each producing about one fifth of the EU total. At world level, common carp was the third most farmed finfish species.

Within the EU, pacific cupped oysters (Crassostrea gigas) were produced mainly in France (85.1 %). Worldwide, one-third of all molluscs produced in 2016 were cupped oysters. The Japanese carpet shell (Ruditapes philippinarum) was mostly farmed in Italy (95.4 % of the EU total). At world level it was the second most produced species among the molluscs.

Atlantic bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus) was farmed in cages in only three Member States: Malta farmed a little over one half (57.4 %) of EU production, the rest being produced in similar quantities in Spain and Croatia.

While Malta and Croatia farmed Atlantic tuna in the Mediterranean Sea only, Spain also farmed a small proportion in the North East Atlantic.

The production of farmed rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykis) in the EU is something of an exception to the general observation about country specialisation; rainbow trout were farmed in 24 EU countries. One half of the weight of rainbow trout produced in 2016 came from the combined output of Italy (17.6 %), Denmark (17.5 %) and France (13.5 %). Fish were farmed either in inland freshwater (84.2 % of the total) or in the saltwater of the North East Atlantic (15.8 %), and mainly in tanks (61.4 %).

Stable level of EU aquaculture production volume but rising value

Between 2008 and 2016 the volume of EU aquaculture production remained relatively stable (see Figure 6). Nevertheless, the value of this output has increased relatively steadily and in 2016 was 6.0 % higher than the value in 2015.

During the same period, Norwegian aquaculture has enjoyed significant increases in volume and even higher growth in value. In 2016, aquaculture production in Norway declined (-4.0 %) due to a sea lice issue with salmon. However, higher prices boosted the value of aquaculture production (+31.6 %).

Figure 6: Aquaculture production and value, EU-28 and Norway, 2008-2016
(index: 2010=100)
Source: Eurostat (fish_aq2a)

Catches

Fish catches cover fish, molluscs, crustaceans and other aquatic animals, residues and aquatic plants that are taken for all purposes, by all types and class of vessel, gear and fishermen, operated in all marine areas: high-sea fishing areas, offshore, inshore or brackish water areas . The production from aquaculture and catches in fresh water are excluded.

EU catches in 2017 totalled 5.3 million tonnes of live weight

Although figures for the total production of fisheries products are only available for 2016, statistics on catches are available for 2017.

The total EU catch in 2017 was 5.3 million tonnes live weight. In the context of the longer-term downward trend described above, this corresponded to a relatively sharp rise (+6.0 %) on the catch level in 2016. So although the EU catch in 2017 remained much lower than that at the turn of the Millennium (1.4 million tonnes less than the catch in 2001), it was 0.9 million tonnes higher than the low point in 2012.

Figure 7: Catches by fishing area, 2017
(thousand tonnes live weight)
Source: Eurostat (fish_ca_main)

The EU catch in 2017 was driven higher by the upswing in catches by the fishing fleets of Denmark (+34.9 %), Spain (+4.9 %) and the United Kingdom (+3.3 %). The fishing fleets of Denmark and Spain both caught 0.9 million tonnes live weight in 2017, the United Kingdom's catch being 0.7 million tonnes (see Figure 7). Spain and Portugal were the only Member States that took catches in all of the seven fishing areas covered by the EU catch statistics.

The vast majority of the EU catch is made in the North East Atlantic

Figure 8: Catches by fishing area, EU-28, 2017
(% of total catches, thousand tonnes of live weight)
Source: Eurostat (fish_ca_main)

Although the European fishing fleet operates worldwide, three-quarters (76.3 %) of all EU catches were taken in the North East Atlantic (see Figure 8 for data and Map 1 for an overview of fishing areas). The key species caught in North East Atlantic were Atlantic herring (19.3 % of catches there), Atlantic mackerel (12.1 %), European sprat (9.1 %) and Blue whiting (also 9.1 %).

Map 1: Fishing areas of the world
Source: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (UNFAO), Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE)

Landings

Landings statistics relate to fisheries products (product weight and value) landed in a country regardless of the nationality of the vessel making the landings, but also to fisheries products landed by the country’s vessels in non-EU ports and then imported into the EU. Landlocked EU countries without a marine fishing fleet are not included (Czechia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia).

4.5 million tonnes (product weight) landed in EU in 2017

The amount of fish landed in the EU in 2017 was 4.0% higher than the level in 2016; 4.5 million tonnes product weight were landed in the EU in 2017. This represents a rebound from the relative low in 2012, almost back to the level recorded in 2008.

Denmark accounted for one fifth (20.1 % or 0.9 million tonnes) of the EU's landings, Spain another one fifth (19.1 %) and the Netherlands about one tenth (11.4 % or 0.5 million tonnes). The overall increase in the amount of landings at the EU-level in 2017 in large part reflected changes in these three Member States. There were higher landed quantities in Spain (+6.5 %) and the Netherlands (+23.3 %). These changes, as well as the higher landed quantities, albeit from lower levels, in other countries like Germany (+37.1 %) and Finland (+27.8 %) outweighed lower landings in the United Kingdom (-5.2 %) and France (-4.9 %). Landings to ports in Norway (2.0 million  tonnes in 2017) and Iceland (1.2 million tonnes) were also higher than in 2016 (+12.4 % and +5.4 % respectively).

Quantity of landings in EU higher in 2017 but value down to EUR 7.3 billion

In contrast to the amount of fish landed, the value of total landings in the EU for 2017 declined (-2.8 % lower than in 2016) to EUR 7.3 billion in 2017.

Spain landed fish valued at EUR 2.0 billion, the highest among the Member States (see Figure 9). This reflects the high value attached to its landings of species like tuna, hake, swordfish, squid and pilchards. In contrast to the weight landed in Denmark, the value of landings represented only 7.7 % of the EU total value.

Among the main landing countries, values were lower in the United Kingdom (-6.4 %) and the Netherlands (-3.9 %). In contrast, there was a rise in the value of landings in France (+1.3 %) and Italy (+4.7 %). However, it was the decline in the value of landings in Ireland (-27.4 %, equivalent to a reduction of EUR 133 million) that had the biggest overall impact at the level of the EU.

Figure 9: Landings in selected countries and EU-28, 2017
Source: Eurostat (fish_Id_main)

Fishing fleet

Reducing the fleet capacity is an essential tool for achieving a sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common fisheries policy (CFP). The EU’s fishing fleet has declined steadily since the early 1990's, in terms of both tonnage (an indicator of fish-holding capacity) and engine power (an indicator of the power available for fishing gear).

The EU's fishing fleet getting smaller in number, capacity and power

The EU fishing fleet numbered 82 737 vessels in 2017, with a combined capacity of 1.6 million gross tonnes and a total engine power of 6.2 million kilowatts (see Table 2). The EU's fishing fleet continued to shrink; compared to 2008, the number of vessels was down -3.2 %, the overall gross tonnage was down -16.0 % and engine power was down -8.6 %.

The EU fishing fleet is diverse; Spain has the highest gross tonnage, Italy most power and Greece most vessels

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 meters in length. The average size of an EU fishing boat in 2017 was 19 gross tonnes and an average engine power of 75.4 kilowatts.

When measured by gross tonnage, Spain had by far the largest fishing fleet among Member States (21.3 % of the EU total). The fleets of the United Kingdom and France, the next largest, were almost half the size of that in Spain. When measured by engine power, the largest fleet was that in Italy (15.8 % of the EU total), followed by France (15.5 %) and Spain (12.6%).

When measured by the number of vessels, the largest fleet in the EU was in Greece (18.1 % of all vessels), followed by Italy (14.8 %) and Spain (11.1 %). Greek vessels were small on average, however, with an average size of 4.7 gross tonnes, and an average engine power of 28.5 kilowatts in 2017.

In Norway, the overall holding capacity of 392 thousand gross tonnes in 2017 was the largest in Europe. 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 number of vessels, the overall holding capacity (gross tonnage) was very similar.

Table 2: Fishing fleet, 2008 and 2017
Source: Eurostat (fish_fleet_alt)

Source data for tables and graphs

Data sources

Fisheries statistics are collected by Eurostat from official national sources for the EU Member States and members of the European Economic Area (EEA). The statistics 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 fisheries statistics.

The European fisheries production statistics include production from catches and aquaculture. Catches refer to fisheries 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 statistics on landings which relate to all fisheries 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, 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 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in the North East Atlantic;
  • Regulation (EC) No 217/2009 on the submission of catch and activity statistics by Member States fishing in the North-West Atlantic;
  • Regulation (EC) No 216/2009 on the submission of nominal catch statistics by Member States fishing in certain areas other than those of the North Atlantic.

The statistics 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). Therefore excluded are quantities of fisheries products which are caught but not landed. For the landings statistics, each country reports annual data on the quantities and values of fisheries products landed in its ports under the terms of Regulation (EC) No 1921/2006 on the submission of statistical data on landings of fisheries products. For aquaculture statistics, the national authorities submit aquaculture production statistics to Eurostat under the terms of Regulation (EC) No 762/2008 on aquaculture.

Concerning the fishing fleet, statistics 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. Statistics for Iceland and Norway are compiled from fleet files submitted by the national authorities

Symbols

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

Context

The current common fisheries policy (CFP) of the EU [5] aims at an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable use of the common resource including aquaculture production. The CFP is a set of rules for managing EU fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Designed to manage a common resource, it gives all EU fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds and allows fishermen to compete fairly. The current policy stipulates that between 2015 and 2020 catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term. Based on EU legislation, Eurostat produces statistics on catches and landings of fisheries products, aquaculture and the EU fishing fleet.

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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)

Notes

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) major areas 21, 27, 34, 37, 41, 47, 51 (see Map 7.3.1)
  2. Catches and landings figures for the EU exclude the EU's landlocked countries (Czechia, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia). Luxembourg does not collect aquaculture statistics.
  3. For more information see the Maritime Affairs of the European Commission.
  4. The state of world fisheries and aquaculture, 2018 FAO at http://www.fao.org/state-of-fisheries-aquaculture/en/
  5. http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/index_en.htm