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Oceans and fisheries

EU fisheries control system

The role of the EU fisheries control system is to ensure that the rules of the common fisheries policy are applied and implemented in practice.


The aim of the EU fisheries control system is to ensure that the rules of the common fisheries policy (CFP) are applied correctly so that fishing and aquaculture activities are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and can provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens.

Control measures include

  • controls on access to waters (e.g fishing licences)
  • fishing effort (e.g. vessels tonnage and engine power)
  • technical measures (e.g. rules on fishing gears)
  • the monitoring and registration of catches that are extracted from the seas and oceans by the EU fishing fleet

Fisheries rules and control systems are agreed at EU level, however they are implemented by the EU countriesthrough their national control systems that are in line with the Fisheries Control System.

EU countries should ensure that a system of inspections and enforcement measures is in place to identify infringements and sanction offenders. This applies to fishery products across the whole supply chain, from extraction to landing and first sale, all the way to the retail sale.

The use of innovative and modern technologies to support these inspections and control measures is a feature of the EU fisheries control system.

In order to consolidate and build on existing achievements and lessons learnt, as well as meet new challenges, the Commission has proposed a revision of the EU fisheries control system. This proposal is currently with the co-legislators.


The principal actors in the EU fisheries control system are

  • European Commission
  • European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA)
  • National competent authorities

Other stakeholders such as masters, fishing vessels' licence holders and fisheries operators are also actors in the EU fisheries control system.

These actors have obligations to ensure control, enforcement and inspection of the rules of the common fisheries policy (CFP) and, in the case of the industry, to operate in accordance with the rules enshrined under an EU legislative framework for control.

National competent authorities

National authorities and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA – see below)) coordinate and conduct key actions including the monitoring and inspection of fishing activity in the EU.

If necessary, EU countries can apply sanctions to those who infringe on the rules.

European Fisheries Control Agency

To encourage closer collaboration and exchange of best practice between EU countries, EFCA organises joint control campaigns (Joint Deployment Programmes-JDP), where inspectors from different EU countries, as well as non-EU countries (in the case of international JDP organised in the framework of regional fisheries management organisations - RFMO) join forces.

They also provide trainings and the sharing of best practises on fisheries inspections and control related issues between EU countries. These trainings are also organised for inspectors in non-EU countries in the framework of EU cooperation programmes in the developing countries (i.e. PESCAO Programme)

European Commission

The European Commission has a duty to control and evaluate the application of the rules of the common fisheries policy by EU countries. This task is performed through audits, verifications, inspections and inquiries. 

When the European Commission finds that national authorities are not enforcing fisheries control rules properly, there are various options exist to remedy the identified shortcomings. These include

  • initiation of an administrative inquiry with the concerned EU country. This may require the EU country to investigate and resolve the identified irregularities and, if necessary, provide the European Commission with additional information.
  • establishment of an action plan. This is a collaborative process where the Commission and the EU country resolve the issues throughthe implementation of a structured roadmap to address the identified shortcomings within a specific time frame.
  • informal dialogue with the EU countries concerned through the EU Pilot. 
  • launch of infringement procedures which may result in proceedings before the European Union Court of Justice.

In addition to the measures outlined above, if necessary, the European Commission may interrupt, and eventually suspend the funding provided under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). In cases where a Member State has exceeded quota allocations, the European Commission may impose a deduction from future fishing opportunities.


Read the latest news on fisheries control.