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Oceans and fisheries

Fishing outside the EU

More than 20% of the fish caught by European fishing vessels are actually taken outside EU waters.

On average, around 10% of EU catches  (but much more in the case of tuna species) are made under fisheries agreements with countries outside the EU, while another 10% are taken on the high seas, mainly in regions under the care of regional fisheries management organisations.

As the largest single market for fisheries products in the world, the EU also plays an important role in promoting better governance through a number of international organisations. This involves developing and implementing policy on fisheries management and – more generally – the Law of the Sea. The EU works closely with its partners from around the globe through the United Nations system, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as in other bodies, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Fishing authorisations

All the "external" fishing activities of EU vessels, in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of third countries whether or not covered by a bilateral agreement (direct authorisations regime), in RFMO areas, in the high seas not under RFMOs, must be specifically authorised by the flag member state.

Authorisations are granted under predefined conditions (see Regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets below) and have to be monitored constantly to check those conditions. Even outside EU waters, EU vessels must continue to follow EU control rules.

Fishing authorisations website

The European Commission's Fishing Authorisations website contains up-to-date information on fishing authorisations that have been granted during the last 10 years for EU vessels fishing outside EU waters and for non-EU vessels fishing in EU waters.


Read our latest news on fishing outside the EU.

  • News announcement

The 12th annual meeting of the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation (SPRFMO) has concluded last Friday 2 February. Under the EU lead, the meeting has seen significant strides towards sustainable fisheries management. The main highlight has been the consensual agreement

  • 1 min read


Regulation on the sustainable management of external fishing fleets

28 JANUARY 2022
Information on the SMEFF for Union operators and Member States
28 JANUARY 2022
Practical information on the SMEFF for Union operators and Member States