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Oceans and fisheries

Fishing fleet capacities

Management of fishing capacity ensures a stable and enduring balance between the fleets’ fishing capacity and fishing opportunities over time.

EU countries are obliged to report annually on this balance, using the guidelines prepared by the European Commission.

Also on an annual basis, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) reviews the national fleet reports and assesses the balance between the fishing capacity and the fishing opportunities for key fleet segments in the EU.

A fishing fleet capacity ceiling in kilowatts (kW) and gross tonnage (GT) is established for each EU country. New fishing vessels may enter the fleet only after the same fleet capacity (in kW and GT) is removed. Through this ‘entry-exit’ system, the EU’s fleet capacity is kept stable.

Access to waters

In general, fishing vessels registered in the EU fishing fleet register have equal access to all of the EU waters and resources that are managed under the common fisheries policy. Access to fisheries is normally authorised through a fishing licence.

There are two temporary exceptions to the rule of equal access

  • an EU country can limit access in waters up to 12 nautical miles from its coast to certain vessels and fisheries
  • in Europe’s outermost regions, access can be restricted in waters of up to 100 nautical miles from their coasts to vessels registered in these territories and to vessels that traditionally fish in those waters

The exceptions expire by end 2022 but the Commission is looking into the possibility of extending them.

Fishing fleet register

The Commission maintains the EU fleet register with the necessary vessel information received periodically from EU countries.


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