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Oceans and fisheries

Objectives for fisheries

Protecting fish stocks from overfishing to ensure high long-term fishing yields for all stocks and a profitable fisheries industry.

Challenges for EU fishing

Fish stocks 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.

To tackle this, the EU takes action to ensure:

  • the European fishing industry is sustainable and does not threaten the fish population or productivity in the long term
  • fishing does not harm the ability of fish to reproduce

The EU's fisheries management system

  • safeguards stock reproduction for the long term
  • lays the foundations for a profitable industry
  • shares fishing opportunities
  • protects marine resources

The common fisheries policy aims to ensure high long-term fishing yields for all stocks by 2020. This is called a maximum sustainable yield.

It also aims to reduce unwanted catches through the  landing obligation which fully entered into force in January 2019.

Fisheries management can take the form of: 

  • input control
  • output control 
  • a combination of both

Input control include:

  • rules to control which vessels have access to which waters and areas
  • rules to limit fishing capacity and vessel usage
  • rules to regulate gear usage and where and when fishermen can fish

Output control is mainly done by applying a system of total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas consisting of limiting the amount of fish  that can be caught from a particular fishery.

Multiannual plans

Almost all important stocks and fisheries are managed by a multiannual plan, which often combine different management tools and contain:

  • the goal for fish stock management
  • the target of fishing at maximum sustainable yield and a deadline for achieving this target
  • a detailed and tailor-made roadmap for achieving the objective
  • fishing effort restrictions as an additional instrument to the TACs
  • measures for the implementation of the landing obligation
  • specific control rules

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.

Fishing effort management

Fishing effort management is a combination of limitations to the fleet capacity and the amount of time that a fleet can spend at sea.

Effort restrictions are often applied in addition to the more generally used system of total allowable catches.

Fishing effort restrictions have been introduced in a number of situations, including under multi-annual plans for the management of a specific stock or group of stocks, and more generally area-based.