- Data extracted in October 2017. Most recent data: Further Eurostat information, Main tables and Database. Planned article update: November 2018.
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 European level, as well as the types of fishing techniques and gear that can be used in fish capture.
The current common fisheries policy (CFP) [] 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 European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Designed to manage a common resource, it gives all European 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 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
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.
As shown in Table 1, the total production of fishery products in 2015 was estimated to be about 6.4 million tonnes of live weight equivalent (the mass or weight when removed from water). This is 3.4 % less than in 2014, making the decrease registered over the whole 2000-2015 period reach 19.4% (Figure 1). A moderate upward trend was however observed in the most recent period, illustrated by a 3.6 % rise of the EU total fishery production between 2008 and 2015. Variations were uneven at national level: total production increased in Spain (+8.1%), the United Kingdom (+19.0%), Denmark (+24.3%) and Poland (+44.8 %), while a decline was registered in Portugal (-15.8 %), Greece (-14.3 %), Italy (-12.9 %) and France (-9.2 %).
Within the EU, the four largest fishery producers in terms of volume in 2015 were Spain (1.2 million live weight tonnes), the United Kingdom and Denmark (0.9 million live weight tonnes each) and France (0.7 million live weight tonnes) (see Table 1). As in previous years, these four countries accounted for more than half of the total EU production in 2015. It is also worth noting that the total fisheries production in Norway (3.5 million tonnes of live weight) was larger than any of the EU Member States in 2015, followed by Iceland (1.3 million tonnes of live weight). Total production volume of both countries as a whole in 2015 was equivalent to three quarters of the total EU-28 production.
The respective evolution of catches and aquaculture between 2000 and 2015 is visualised in Figure 1. Catches declined by 21.4 % or 1.4 million tonnes of live weight since 2000. Having peaked in 2000 at 6.5 million tonnes, the total EU-28 catch (calculated as the sum of catches in the seven regions) fell almost every year until 2012 to reach 4.4 million tonnes of live weight. A positive trend was observed in the following two years and the EU-28 catches totalled 5.4 million tonnes in 2014 (+21.8% compared to 2012). A slight reduction followed in 2015 (-4.4 %), with the total EU-28 catches amounting to 5.1 million tonnes.
By contrast, the volume of aquaculture production in the EU was fairly stable over the 2000-2015 period. In 2015, it was estimated at 1.3 million tonnes of live weight, compared to the 1.4 million tonnes peak production in 2000 (-8.7 %). As for the share of aquaculture in the EU total fishery production, it fluctuated from 17.1% in 2001 to a maximum of 21.7% in 2012. In 2015, 80.3 % of total EU production originated from marine catches, while the remaining 19.7 % came from aquaculture (see Figure 2).
The rearing 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 one fifth of the EU-28’s total fishery production in 2015. Production was approximately 1.26 million tonnes of live weight in 2015, confirming the fairly stable production volume of the last 10 years. The value of production amounted to EUR 4.1 billion, affirming the slow, but steady economic growth of aquaculture registered during this period.
The three largest aquaculture producers among EU Member States were Spain (23%), the United Kingdom (17%) and France (13%), which together accounted for more than half of total EU-28 aquaculture production in 2015. Italy (12 %) and Greece (8 %) followed. However, in terms of economic value, the United Kingdom led with a 24 % share, followed by France (15 %), Spain (12 %), Greece (11 %) and Italy (11 %). Therefore, just five EU countries were responsible for almost three quarters of the aquaculture production volume and value (see Table 2).
Within the EU-28, 137 different species were farmed in aquaculture in 2015. Mediterranean mussel accounted for nearly one fourth (24.7%) of total aquaculture production in terms of weight (including shells), followed by Atlantic salmon (14.8%), rainbow trout (13.8%) and blue mussels (10.2%). Gilthead seabream, Pacific cupped oyster, common carp and European seabass followed each of them with an individual share around 6%.
In terms of value, however, the rank was different: Atlantic salmon produced by far the highest economic value (EUR 971 million EUR) although the species is cultivated in only a few EU countries and mostly in the United Kingdom (93% of EU production volume). Second most important species in terms of economic value was rainbow trout (578million EUR), followed by gilthead seabream (445 million EUR).
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 2015, followed at distance by European seabass (6.3%), rainbow trout and gilthead seabream (5.5% each).
In the United Kingdom, Atlantic salmon accounted for 81.4 % of the total national aquaculture production followed by mussels (9.1%) and rainbow trout (7%).
In France the largest volumes were produced by Pacific cupped oyster (39.3 %), blue mussel (28.6%), rainbow trout (14.4 %) and Mediterranean mussel (6.2 %).
In 2015, Norway's aquaculture production amounted to 1.38 million tonnes of live weight worth EUR 5.2 billion; it was larger (+9.6%) than the estimated volume for the entire EU-28 and it was worth 27.8% more than the EU-28's value (see Figure 3). Unlike the EU, Norway’s aquaculture production expanded steadily from 2000 to 2015 both in volume and value. In 2015, Norway produced 1.3 million tonnes of Atlantic salmon with a value of EUR 4.96 billion. Its 73 thousand tonnes of rainbow trout were sold for EUR 0.25 billion.
In 2016, the total EU catches amounted to 5.0 million tonnes live weight, 2.6 % less than in 2015. Contrasting with the overall decline observed since 2000 (1.5 million tonnes live weight less, or -22.7%) a slight 2.1 % rise was registered between 2008 and 2016, as shown in Table 3. Variations over this period were diverse at country level, with significant increases in Poland (70.5 %), Croatia (46.6 %) and Finland (36.2 %) as opposed to drops in Lithuania (-32.7 %), Latvia (-27.2 %) and Estonia (-26.3 %).
Catches by the fishing fleets of Spain, the United Kingdom, Denmark and France accounted for a bit more than half (55.0 %) of the total EU catches in 2016 (see Table 3 and Figure 5).
Although the European fishing fleet operates worldwide, EU catches were taken primarily from the Eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean and Black Sea (see Figure 4). In 2016, 74.3 % of EU-28 catches were made in the North East Atlantic, with another 9 % from the Mediterranean and Black Sea and 8 % coming from the Eastern Central Atlantic (see Figure 4 and Map 1). Spain was the only Member State catching significant quantities in all seven fishing areas, whereas the fishing fleets of the United Kingdom, Denmark and France were active mostly in the North East Atlantic and made almost half (47.7 %) of the EU catches in this region.
Figure 6 shows the five most popular species that were caught by EU Member States in 2016 in the North East Atlantic which is their most important fishing area. Atlantic herring was by far the most caught species representing more than one fifth (22.6 %) of the total EU-28 catches. It was followed by Atlantic mackerel (12.3 %) and European sprat (11.9 %), then blue whiting (6 %) and Atlantic cod (3.5 %). These top five species made up 56.2 % of the EU North East Atlantic catches in 2016.
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. Landlocked EU countries without a marine fishing fleet are not included (the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Hungary, Austria and Slovakia).
The tonnage of fish landed in the EU decreased by 6.6% between 2015 and 2016 to reach 4.4 million tonnes product weight. Although limited, this reduction contrasts with the upward trend observed in the three preceding years and making 2015 landed quantities 19.1% higher with respect to 2012. The overall 2.5% decrease registered by the EU since 2008 resulted from opposite variations at national level: while landed quantities declined in most countries, they expanded in Germany (+17.2%), France (+40.5%) and Poland (85.4%). In 2016, 20.5 % or 0.9 million tonnes of product weight of the EU landings were made in Denmark, the highest share among EU Member States. Only landings to Spanish ports (18.3 % or 0.8 million tonnes of product weight) came close to the Danish levels. In contrast, landings to ports in Iceland (1.1 million tonnes) and Norway (1.8 million tonnes) were much higher (see Table 4).
The value of landings for the whole EU rose by 7.7% between 2015 and 2016 amounting to EUR 7.5 billion. While landings expressed in tonnage slightly decreased over the period under scrutiny, their value rose by 12% between 2008 and 2016. This upward trend was observed in a majority of countries though two noticeable exceptions were Greece (-22.3%) and Italy (-16.6%). More than one fourth of the value for the EU-28 was generated by landings into Spanish ports (27.1 % or EUR 2.0 billion in 2016), reflecting the high value attached to its landings of species like tuna, hake, swordfish, squid and pilchards. Landings in France had the next highest value (12.8 % or EUR 1 billion in 2016), closely followed by the United Kingdom (12.5 % or EUR 0.9 billion) and Italy (12.3 % or EUR 0.9 billion). Denmark only accounted for a relatively small share (7.5 % in 2016) of EU-28 landings in terms of value (EUR 0.6 billion).
The values of landings to ports in Iceland (EUR 1.1 billion) and Norway (EUR 2.2 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 (see Table 4 and Figure 7).
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 has declined fairly 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). Table 5 shows 2008 and 2016 data for fishing fleet by number of vessels, total gross tonnage and engine power. In 2016, the EU fishing fleet numbered 83 734 vessels with a combined capacity of 1.6 million gross tonnes and a total engine power of 6.3 million kilowatts. Compared to 2008, the number of vessels decreased by 1 707 (-2.0 %) in 2016 while the overall gross tonnage and engine power decreased by -0.3 million gross tonnes (-15.1 %) and - 0.5 million kilowatts (-7.1 %) respectively.
In 2016, almost one fifth (18.1 %) of the EU-28’s fishing fleet was registered in Greece, followed by Italy (14.7 %) and Spain (11.1 %). 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 19.0 gross tonnes) and an average engine power of 28.4 kilowatts in 2016 (compared with an EU-28 average of 75.7 kilowatts). In terms of capacity Spain, France, Italy and the United Kingdom had the largest fishing fleets, accounting for 53.8 % of total gross tonnage and 55.9 % of engine power in 2016. In Finland, the number of vessels has grown by 13.6 % in 2016 compared to 2015 but has decreased by 4.6 % between 2008 and 2016.
In terms of gross tonnage, the Spanish fishing fleet was by far the largest (338 thousand gross tonnes in 2016 or 21.2 % of the EU-28 total gross tonnage); this was close to twice as high as the next largest fleet, that of the United Kingdom (186 thousand gross tonnes or 11.7 % of the EU-28), which was followed by France (173 thousand gross tonnes or 10.9 % of the EU-28), Italy (157 thousand gross tonnes or 9.9 % of the EU-28) and the Netherlands (132 thousand gross tonnes or 8.3 % of the EU-28). In Norway, the overall holding capacity (391 thousand gross tonnes in 2016) was the largest in Europe and similar to Spain’s in terms of overall tonnage, although Norway’s 65.7 gross tonnes average per vessel was considerably higher than Spain’s (36.3 gross tonnes average). 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.
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.
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)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) major areas 21, 27, 34, 37, 41, 47, 51 (see Map 1).