This section describes the fisheries and aquaculture sector in figures (2016). It is bases mainly on data compiled by Eurostat, the European Union Statistics Office, but also on figures collected by the European Commission and the FAO. It reviews the latest developments in the fisheries sector in the 28 EU countries.
Source: Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), Monitoring the performance of the common fisheries policy (STECF-17-04), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2017 (EUR 28359 EN, JRC 106498, doi:10.2760/491411).
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The European Union has agreed that, by 2020 at the latest, all fish stocks should be exploited at sustainable levels. In practice this means taking the highest possible amount of catches from the sea without affecting the long-term productivity of the stocks. This is known as the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).
In the North-East Atlantic and adjacent waters (North Sea, Baltic Sea, Skagerrak, Kattegat, West of Scotland Sea, Irish Sea and Celtic Sea), EU fisheries ministers set overall catch limits based on scientific advice. These total allowable catches (TACs) are then divided into national quotas, which set limits on the amount of fish that can be caught.
The chart on the right shows the numbers of stocks that were fished according to the MSY objective (in green) and the numbers of stocks that were overfished compared to that objective (in red).
In the Mediterranean Sea, scientists assessed 60 stocks in 2017. Only seven stocks were assessed as being above MSY (1).
In some cases, fishing may have unintended effects on the marine environment and ecosystems. Where necessary, the EU adopts measures to protect vulnerable habitats such as deep-sea corals, and to reduce unintended harm to seabirds, seals and dolphins.
(1) Preliminary results pending endorsement of the reports: Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), Mediterranean Stock Assessments 2017 part I (STECF-17-15), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2017, and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) working groups on stock assessments.
Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (or RFMOs) are international bodies formed by countries with fishing interests in a same region or in a same (group of) species.
Within these bodies, countries collectively set science-based binding measures such as catch and/or fishing effort limits, technical measures and control obligations to ensure conservation, as well as fair and sustainable management of the shared marine resources.
Today, the majority of the world’s seas are covered by RFMOs. They can broadly be divided in RFMOs that only manage highly migratory fish stocks, mainly tuna, and RFMOs that manage other fish stocks.
In the case of tuna, the collective efforts and work of RFMOs means that the stocks have improved significantly over the past few years. Out of the 18 tuna stocks of main interest for the EU, 16 were fished sustainably in 2017. Roughly 10 years ago, less than half of these stocks were fished at sustainable levels.
RFMOs are open to both the coastal states of the region and the countries which fish or have other fisheries-related interests in the region. Represented by the Commission, the European Union plays an active role in five tuna RFMOs, in the Agreement on the International Dolphin Conservation Programme (sister organisation to the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and in nine non-tuna RFMOs.
The EU is also a member of two regional fisheries bodies which have a purely advisory role: the Western Central Atlantic Fisheries Commission and the Fisheries Committee for the Eastern Central Atlantic.
The sustainable fisheries partnership agreements (SFPAs) that the EU signs with non-EU countries allow EU vessels to fish in a partner country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Tuna agreements allow EU vessels to target and catch highly migratory fish stocks; mixed agreements give them access to a wide range of fish stocks, especially ground fish species (mainly shrimps and cephalopods) and/or pelagic species.
To ensure sustainable fishing, EU vessels are only allowed to target surplus resources that the partner country is not willing to fish or not capable of fishing. In exchange, the EU pays a fee for the right to access the partner country’s EEZ, as well as sectorial support tailored to the partner country's needs. This support aims to reinforce fisheries governance, strengthen administrative and scientific capacities, foster monitoring and control activities, and support small-scale fisheries, thereby leading to improved sustainability. In addition, EU vessel operators pay a licence fee for access. The burden of payment is shared between the EU and the industry, with the latter bearing a greater share.
Today, SFPAs set the standard for international fishing policy. They are all centred on resource conservation and environmental sustainability, with EU vessels subject to strict supervision and transparency rules. All protocols contain a clause concerning the respect for human rights in the partner country.
The agreements are negotiated and concluded between the European Commission on behalf of the European Union and the partner country. Transparency and accountability are the driving principles of the negotiation process; the texts of the agreements are public and open to the scrutiny of other public institutions and civil society.
The EU has had fisheries agreements with Norway and the Faroe Islands since the late 1970s, and with Iceland since the early 1990s.
The agreement with Norway covers the joint management of shared fish stocks (notably through total allowable catches and quotas) in the North Sea and Skagerrak areas, within the framework of long-term management strategies that ensure sustainable fisheries. It also includes an annual exchange of fishing possibilities, guaranteeing a continuation of traditional fishing patterns.
The agreements with the Faroe Islands and Iceland are based solely on the annual exchange of fishing possibilities in each other’s waters, although no exchange of quotas has taken place with Iceland since the 2008 fishing season.
Illegal fishing is a major threat to global marine resources. It depletes fish stocks, destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fishers at an unfair disadvantage, and destroys the livelihoods of coastal communities, particularly in developing countries.
It is estimated that between 11 and 26 million tonnes of fish are caught illegally a year, corresponding to at least 15 % of the world's catches.
As the world’s largest importer of fisheries products, the EU has adopted an innovative policy to fight against illegal fishing worldwide, by not allowing fisheries products to access the EU unless they are certified as legal.
The EU IUU Regulation entered into force on 1 January 2010. It concerns EU Member States and non-EU countries alike and applies to all vessels that commercially exploit fisheries resources destined for the EU market.
Under the IUU Regulation, the EU enters into a structured process of dialogue and cooperation with the third countries that have problems meeting international IUU rules, with the aim of helping them undertake the necessary reforms (see illustration).
The IUU process explained
In this context, the EU is currently in dialogue with over 50 non-EU countries. Thanks to this cooperation, more than 30 non-EU countries have improved their systems to join the EU in fighting IUU fishing.
The IUU regulation has helped to improve EU control standards. It allows Member States to better verify and, if appropriate, refuse imports into the EU. This is reinforced by a mutual assistance system for sharing intelligence.
All EU fishing vessels are regulated by a comprehensive legal framework and an elaborate control system that applies anywhere they fish. In addition, under the IUU Regulation the EU has contributed to investigations concerning more than 200 cases of alleged IUU fishing activities involving vessels from 27 countries. As a direct consequence, sanctions against more than 50 vessels have been imposed, amounting to roughly EUR 8 million.
To find out more: http://ec.europa.eu/fisheries/cfp/illegal_fishing/info/index_en.htm
Download fleet statistics
Managing fleet capacity is an essential part of ensuring sustainable fishing, one of the main objectives of the common fisheries policy. The EU fishing fleet is very diverse, with vessels ranging from under six metres to over 75. Under EU law the total capacity of the fishing fleet may not be increased. Any decommissioning of vessels or reductions in fleet capacity achieved with public financial support must be permanent.
NB: Length refers to total length.Source: EU Fishing Fleet Register. Situation as in September 2017.
For the past 22 years, the EU fishing fleet capacity has declined in terms of both tonnage and engine power. Despite enlargements to the EU, the number of EU vessels in 2017 was 83 117 – 20 717 fewer than in 1996.
Healthier stocks contribute to a more sustainable industry. Overall, the EU fleet was profitable in 2015. This consolidates the gradual recovery of recent years, during which both gross profit and net profit margin of the fleet have shown an upward trend.
The fishing fleet of the Member States (2017)
Source: EU Fishing Fleet Register. Situation as in September 2017.
Source: EU fishing fleet register
Fishing plays a crucial role for employment and economic activity in several EU regions – in some European coastal communities the fishing sector accounts for as many as half the local jobs.
Employment in the fishing sector tends to be concentrated in a handful of countries. Spain alone accounts for a fourth of total employment, and the four countries with the highest levels of employment – Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal – make up around 73%.
Aquaculture employs roughly 80 000 people, including part-time and full-time jobs in both marine and freshwater aquaculture.
The processing industry counts approximately 3 700 companies. The mainstay of EU production is conserves and ready meals of fish, crustaceans and molluscs.
Employment in the fisheries, aquaculture and processing sectors (measured in full-time equivalents)
(1) Data cover only marine aquaculture.(2) Persons employed.
Source: for fisheries: Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), The 2017 annual economic report on the EU fishing fleet (STECF 17-12), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2017 (Report EUR 28359 EN, JRC 107883, doi:10.2760/36154);for aquaculture: Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), Economic report of the EU aquaculture sector (STECF-16-12), Luxembourg, Publications Office of the European Union, 2016 (Report EUR 28356 EN, JRC 104210, doi:10.2788/67732);for processing: Eurostat.
The EU is the fourth largest producer worldwide, accounting for about 3.1% of global fisheries and aquaculture production. 80% of production comes from fisheries and 20% from aquaculture.
Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and France and are the largest producers in terms of volume in the EU.
Main world producers (2015)(catches and aquaculture)(volume in 1000 tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
(*) FAO estimate.Source: For EU-28 catches: Eurostat for all MS except CZ, HU, AT and SK. (These data do not include inland water catches.)For inland water catches for CZ, HU, AT and SK only: FAO.For EU-28 aquaculture: Eurostat and Eumofa.For other countries: FAO.
Much like in previous years, the EU accounts for around 5% of total fisheries production worldwide.
Although the European fleet operates worldwide, EU catches are taken primarily in the North-East Atlantic. The most fished species are pelagic fish, especially Atlantic herring, Atlantic mackerel and European sprat, accounting for more than one third of EU catches.
The leading fishing countries in terms of volume are Spain, Denmark, the United Kingdom and France, which combined, account for more than 57% of EU catches.
Total EU catches in fishing areas (2015)(volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
Source: Eurostat for all MS except CZ, HU, AT and SK. (These data do not include inland water catches.)For inland water catches for CZ, HU, AT and SK only: FAO.
Total catches of world’s main producers (2015)(volume in 1000 tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
(*) FAO estimate.Source: For EU-28: Eurostat for all MS except CZ, HU, AT and SK. (These data do not include inland water catches.)For inland water catches for CZ, HU, AT and SK only: FAO.For other countries: FAO.
Total catches per Member State (2015)(volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
The 15 species caught by the European Union (2015)(volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
Main species caught per Member State (2015)(volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
NB: Not relevant for LU. Data by main species is not available for AT.Source: Eurostat except FAO for CZ, HU and SK.
Aquaculture is a significant activity in many European countries, producing around 1.3 million tonnes and more than EUR 4 billion in value. In the total world aquaculture production, EU aquaculture occupies a share of 1.23 % in terms of volume and 2.82 % in terms of value. Mediterranean mussels make up around one fourth of the total volume farmed in the EU, while Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout together represent more than a third of the total value.
The main aquaculture-producing countries in terms of volume are Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Greece.
Total aquaculture production per Member State (2015)(value in thousands of EUR, volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
NB. Not relevant for LU.
Source: Eurostat and Eumofa.
Total aquaculture production by other major producers (2015)(value in thousands of EUR, volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
(*) FAO estimate.Source: Eumofa for EU and FAO for other countries.
Top 10 species in aquaculture in the European Union (2015)(value in thousands of EUR and percentage of total)
Top 10 species in aquaculture in the European Union (2015) (volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total)
Main species in aquaculture per Member State (2015)(value in thousands of EUR and percentage of total value - volume in tonnes live weight and percentage of total volume)
NB: Not relevant for LU.
Despite the increase in production costs, the EU fish processing industry is generally profitable, with an overall turnover of nearly EUR 28 billion. The main countries in terms of output are Spain, France, United Kingdom, Poland and Denmark.
Turnover (2016)(in millions of EUR)
(1) 2015 data
(2) 2014 data
NB: Not relevant for LU.Source: Eurostat for all Member States except MT and CY whose data come from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), The 2017 economic performance of the EU fish processing industry.
Fishermen and fish farmers may join forces through producer organisations to make their production sustainable and efficiently market their products. They do so by developing production and marketing plans. These organisations are key actors in fisheries and aquaculture. In 2017, there were 218 producer organisations across 18 EU Member States.
NB: In AT, BG, CY, CZ, FI, HU, LU, MT, SI and SK, there are no producer organisations.
Source: Member States, data retrieved on 16 January 2018.
Advisory Councils are stakeholders' organisations composed of representatives from the industry and from other interest groups (with a 60% - 40% allocation of seats in the general assembly and the executive committee). Their purpose is to submit to the European Commission and Member States recommendations on issues related to fisheries and aquaculture. Advisory councils may also provide information for the development of conservation measures, while Member States are to consult them in the context of regionalisation.
As they pursue an aim of general interest for Europe, advisory councils receive EU financial assistance from the European Commission to cover part of their operational costs.
In addition to the seven existing advisory councils (Baltic Sea, Long Distance Fleet, Mediterranean Sea, North Sea, North-Western waters, Pelagic stocks, South-Western waters), the new CFP has established four new advisory councils for the Black Sea, Aquaculture, Markets and Outermost regions. The first three are already operational.
The EU is the leading trader of fisheries and aquaculture products in the world in terms of value. EU trade (i.e. imports and exports) has increased over the past few years, reaching EUR 29.1 billion in 2014. Norway, China, Morocco and Iceland are the EU’s main suppliers, while the United States, Norway, Switzerland and China are the EU’s main customers.
The EU is a net importer of fisheries and aquaculture products, mostly frozen and fresh and chilled. Sweden, Spain, Denmark and the United Kingdom are the leading importing Member States.
In 2016 EU exports to third countries increased to EUR 4.7 billion. Spain, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom are the leading exporting Member States.
Trade between EU countries is very significant and plays an essential role in the EU’s fisheries trade. Its value is comparable to that of imports into the EU, i.e. EUR 23.6 billion in 2016. The main exporters to other EU Member States are Sweden, Denmark, Spain and the Netherlands. The main importers are France, Italy, Germany, and Spain.
Trade of fisheries and aquaculture products between the European Union and non-EU countries (2016)(volume in tonnes and value in thousands of EUR)
Extra- and intra-EU trade (2016)(value in billions of EUR)
Trade of fisheries and aquaculture products between the European Union and non-EU countries – Main suppliers (2016)(value in thousands of EUR and percentage of total)
Trade of fisheries and aquaculture products between the European Union and non-EU countries – Main customers (2016)(value in thousands of EUR and percentage of total)
Trade of fisheries and aquaculture products between the European Union and non-EU countries (2016)(value in thousands of EUR and percentage of total)
Imports and exports of fisheries and aquaculture products - Extra-EU trade (2016)(volume in tonnes and value in thousands of EUR)
Imports of fisheries and aquaculture products – Extra-EU trade (2016)(value in thousands of EUR)
Exports of fisheries and aquaculture products - Extra-EU trade (2016)(value in thousands of EUR)
Fisheries and aquaculture products are an important source of protein and a crucial component of a healthy diet. This is particularly true for the average European, who consumes 25.1 kg of fish or seafood per year (almost 4 kg more than in the rest of the world).
Consumption, however, varies greatly across the EU: from 4.8 kg per person in Hungary to 55.9 kg in Portugal.
Three quarters of the fish or seafood consumed in the EU come from wild fisheries, while the remaining quarter comes from aquaculture. The most popular species are tuna, cod and salmon.
Consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products (2015)(quantity in live weight (kg/inhabitant/year))
Source: FAO, Eurostat and Eumofa.
Consumption of fisheries and aquaculture products in the major world economies (2013)(quantity in live weight (kg/inhabitant/year))
Main species consumed in the European Union (2015)(quantity in live weight (kg/inhabitant/year))
Source: Eumofa, The EU fish market, 2017 edition.
In the EU, the 2013 average consumption of protein from fish and seafood remained stable at 6.61 g per day per person, which corresponds to around 6% of total protein intake and 11% of animal protein intake.
Animal proteins make up 58% of individual protein intake (60.38 g per day), while vegetal proteins cover the remaining 42% (43.47 g per day).
Consumption of proteins per Member State (2013)(grams per capita per day)
* (meat, milk, cheese, egg, etc)Source: FAO.
The supply of fisheries and seafood products to the EU market is ensured by the EU’s own production and by imports, leading to a total of 14.56 million tonnes available for human consumption in 2015. In the same year, the "apparent consumption", obtained by subtracting exports from this figure, was 12.77 million tonnes.
Supply balance (2015)(volume in million tonnes live weight equivalent)
Self-sufficiency can be expressed as the ratio between own production (catches plus aquaculture) and total apparent consumption. In 2015, the EU's self-sufficiency rate stood at 46%, i.e. Europeans consumed roughly twice as much as they produced.
The EU’s production covers more than two thirds of its consumption of pelagic fish and more than half of its consumption of molluscs. It is more dependent on external sourcing for salmonids, crustaceans and other fish.
Five European Structural and Investment Funds support the economic development of the EU until 2020. One of them, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), is specifically tailored to Europe's seas and coasts. Its EUR 6.4 billion budget - 5.7 billion of which is managed by the Member States - focuses on underpinning the common fisheries policy (CFP) and making fisheries and aquaculture more sustainable and profitable. But the EMFF also invests in diversifying local economies for thriving maritime regions and inland fisheries and aquaculture areas.
In doing so, the EMFF does not prescribe how every cent should be spent. Instead the European Union allocates a share of the total budget to each country, and leaves it to national authorities - and local communities - to choose the projectes and solutions that work best for them.
 The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the Cohesion Fund (CF), the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
The EMFF has six main priorities
The remaining 5.1% consists of technical assistance to help Member States to implement the above priorities.
In this way, the EMFF supports local initiatives aiming at rebuilding fish stocks, phasing out discards, collecting fisheries data and reducing human impact on the marine environment. It helps Member States check that fishermen, fish farmers and maritime communities correctly apply the relevant EU rules. The EMFF also envourages cross-border cooperation in maritime domains such as spatial planning and surveillance.
EMFF contribution – 2014-2020 programming period – Per priority(in thousands of EUR and percentage of total)
NB: Not relevant for LU.Source: Member States' operational programmes. Situation as in January 2018.
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries:
Common Fisheries Policy
European Atlas of the Seas
Eumofa is an on-line multilingual database which provides access to real-time comprehensive data on price, value and volume of fisheries and aquaculture production across the EU as well as market information and analysis.
European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture products
Statistics on fisheries
The European Commission has adopted a Farm to Fork Strategy for a fair, healthy and environmentally friendly food system and a Biodiversity Strategy to bring nature back into our lives. The strategies are mutually reinforcing, bringing together nature, fishers, farmers, business and consumers to jointly work towards a competitively sustainable future in line with the European Green Deal.
European fishermen and women are weathering a new kind of storm. With fish markets and seafood restaurants shut down, supply chains broken and many large vessels staying in port, thousands of jobs are at risk. So, what are the fishermen doing, and how's the EU helping to keep the sector afloat?
The European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture products (EUMOFA) has released the video recording and other material from its webinar on international trade data.