Managing fisheries

Managing fisheries

Managing fisheries

The fishing net is controlled by fisheries inspectors.

Fishermen catch fish from fish stocks, which generally have a high, but not unlimited, reproductive capacity. If fishing is not controlled, stocks may collapse or fishing may cease to be economically viable. It is in everyone's interest to have a fisheries management system in place to

  • safeguard stock reproduction for high long-term yield
  • lay the foundations for a profitable industry
  • share out fishing opportunities fairly, and
  • conserve marine resources 

The principal aim of fisheries management under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure high long-term fishing yields for all stocks by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020. This is referred to as maximum sustainable yield. Another increasingly important aim is to reduce unwanted catches and wasteful practices to the minimum or avoid them altogether, through the gradual introduction of a landing obligation. Lastly, the new CFP has overhauled its rules and management structure, with regionalisation and more extensive stakeholder consultation.

Fisheries management can take the form of input control, output control, or a combination of both. Input controls include:

  • rules on access to waters – to control which vessels have access to which waters and areas
  • fishing effort controls – to limit fishing capacity and vessel usage
  • technical measures  - to regulate gear usage and where and when fishermen can fish 

Output controls mainly consist of limiting the amount of fish from a particular fishery, in particular through total allowable catches (see TACs and quotas).

The Common Fisheries Policy increasingly has recourse to multi-annual plans which often combine different management tools.

Fisheries management is based on data and scientific advice, and control measures to ensure that rules are applied fairly to and complied with by all fishermen.

Fisheries conservation measures for the protection of the marine environment

We all depend on healthy ecosystems:  for food, energy, raw materials, air and water. That is why the EU has adopted laws to protect our environment and safeguard biodiversity – whether on land and at sea.

This includes environmental legislation like the Birds and Habitats Directives or the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (or Marine Directive), which aims to create a framework for the sustainable use of our marine waters.

In order to meet their environmental obligations under the three directives, EU countries need to take action on various fronts. This includes addressing different human activities affecting the seas, for instance fisheries.

Since fisheries policy is an exclusive competence of the European Union, it is up to the EU to take any fisheries-related measures.

However, the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) also gives member states the chance to play an active role in designing fisheries conservation measures (so-called regionalisation). Affected countries may submit joint recommendations as regards the fisheries conservation measures deemed necessary to achieve those environmental objectives. The Commission can then adopt legislation on the basis of those recommendations, effectively turning them into binding EU law.

Joint recommendations received so far:

Date     EU countries having direct management interest Sea basin
13/03/2015 DE, DK, SE North Sea
13/03/2015 DE, DK, SE Baltic Sea
10/06/2016 DE, DK, SE North Sea
16/11/2016 DE, DK, SE North Sea
30/11/2016 DE, DK, SE, PL Baltic Sea


North Sea

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/117 of 5 September 2016 establishing fisheries conservation measures for the protection of the marine environment in the Baltic Sea and repealing Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/1778

Baltic Sea

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2017/118 of 5 September 2016 establishing fisheries conservation measures for the protection of the marine environment in the North Sea