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Oceans and fisheries
Supplementary information12 June 2018Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries7 min read

Questions and answers on the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) 2021-2027

What is the EMFF? The EMFF is the Union fund that will support the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the growth of a sustainable blue economy and the European Union's international commitments in the field of ocean governance.

As in the current period it will continue supporting the environmental, economic, social and employment objectives of the CFP to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities are sustainable in the long term and contribute to the availability of food supplies. It will focus on the conservation of the marine biological resources and on growth and jobs in coastal communities across the European Union.

The EMFF is part of the Union multiannual financial framework for the 2021-2027 programming period with a total budget of EUR 6.14 billion.

What are the priorities of EMFF?

The EMFF will support the implementation of the CFP and of the Union's maritime policy along four priorities:

  1. Fostering sustainable fisheries and the conservation of marine biological resources;
  2. Contributing to food security in the Union through competitive and sustainable aquaculture and markets;
  3. Enabling the growth of a sustainable blue economy and fostering prosperous coastal communities;
  4. Strengthening international ocean governance and enabling safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans.

In addition, the EMFF will support voluntary contributions to international organisations and technical assistance.

Who will benefit from the EMFF and how?

As under the 2014-2020 period, the EMFF will support innovative investments from private stakeholders in the whole value chain of the fisheries sector and in aquaculture. It will also support projects that foster the growth of a sustainable blue economy and Member States' action in the maritime sector, such as fisheries control, the collection and processing of scientific data, and maritime security.

The maximum EMFF contribution to the projects implemented by Member States will be 75% of the public expenditure in most cases, going up to 85% in some cases. That support will be shared with other public contributors. The maximum public contribution will be between 50% and 100%, depending on the features of the project.

What about investments in the fisheries sector?

Fisheries are vital to the livelihood and cultural heritage of many communities in the Union, in particular where small-scale coastal fishing plays an important role. The EMFF will continue to support investments to increase the environmental sustainability, economic competitiveness and social welfare of the sector to contribute to the objectives of the CFP.

In particular, it will aim to achieve and maintain sustainable fishing based on Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and to minimise the negative impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem. That support will include innovation and investments in low-impact fishing practices and techniques and investments on board fishing vessels in order to improve health, safety and working conditions, energy efficiency and the quality of catches.

The landing obligation is one of the main challenges of the CFP. It has implied significant changes in fishing practices for the sector, sometimes with an important financial cost. The EMFF will therefore support innovation and investments that contribute to the implementation of the landing obligation, like investments in selective fishing gears, in the improvement of port infrastructures and in the marketing of unwanted catches.

Given the challenges to achieve a sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources in line with the conservation objectives of the CFP, the EMFF will continue to support the management and adaptation of fisheries and fishing fleets. Such support should be tightly targeted to the conservation and sustainable exploitation of marine biological resources and aimed at achieving a balance between the fishing capacity and the available fishing opportunities.

What about small-scale coastal fishing?

Small-scale coastal fishing is carried out by fishing vessels below 12 metres and not using towed fishing gears. This sector represents nearly 75% of all fishing vessels registered in the European Union and nearly half of all employment in the fishery sector. The EMFF will give small-scale coastal fishing improved preferential treatment compared to the 2014-2020 period through a higher intervention rate. In addition, certain types of support will be reserved for their vessels. Furthermore, Member States will be asked to develop an action plan for small-scale coastal fishing setting out a strategy for the sustainable development of the sector.

What about food security?

Fisheries and aquaculture contribute to food security and nutrition. However, the European Union currently imports more than 60% of its supply of fishery products and is therefore highly dependent on third countries. An important challenge is to encourage the consumption of fish protein produced in the Union with high quality standards and available for consumers at affordable prices.

In this context, aquaculture has a role to play. The EMFF will therefore continue to support the promotion and the sustainable development of this sector, including freshwater aquaculture. Such support will include productive investments, compensatory measures which provide critical land and nature management services, and actions for animal health and welfare.

Food security also relies on efficient and well-organised markets, which improve the transparency, stability, quality and diversity of the supply chain, as well as consumer information. To this end, the EMFF will continue to support the marketing of fishery and aquaculture products, especially the promotion of new market outlets and the development and dissemination of market intelligence.

Targeted support will also be available for the processing industry, under strict conditions justified by the good economic situation of that sector.

What about the development of a sustainable blue economy?

As the European Union's maritime fund, the EMFF will be ambitious in supporting the development of a sustainable blue economy. The output of the global ocean economy is estimated at EUR 1.3 trillion today[1] and could more than double by 2030. Public support is needed to foster private investment in new maritime markets, technologies and services.

The blue economy relies on partnerships between local stakeholders that contribute to the vitality of coastal and inland communities and economies. The EMFF will provide tools to foster such partnerships through community-led local development (CLLD). Their scope will be extended compared to the 2014-2020 period.

The EMFF will also focus on creating the enabling conditions for a sustainable blue economy by promoting an integrated governance and management of maritime policy, enhancing the transfer and uptake of research, innovation and technology, improving maritime skills, ocean literacy and sharing of socio-economic data, promoting a low-emission and climate resilient sustainable blue economy, and developing project pipelines and innovative financing instruments.

What about the European Union's international commitments for healthy, safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans?

60% of the oceans are beyond the borders of national jurisdiction. As a global actor, the European Union is strongly committed to promoting international ocean governance. This new policy will be fully supported by the EMFF. It is not only core to achieving the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in particular Sustainable Development Goal 14 ('Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development'), but also to guaranteeing safe, secure, clean and sustainably managed seas and oceans for future generations.

The EMFF will support those international commitments for better international ocean governance at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels, including to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, to improve the international ocean governance framework, to reduce pressures on oceans and seas, to create the conditions for a sustainable blue economy and to strengthen international ocean research and data.

What about maritime security?

Improved border protection and maritime surveillance provide an essential contribution to the European Union’s security and defence. The EU maritime security strategy based on information sharing and cooperation between the European Fisheries Control Agency, the European Maritime Safety Agency and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency is key to delivering on those objectives. The EMFF will contribute to this policy by supporting maritime surveillance and coastguard cooperation.

What about simplifying and cutting red tape?

The Commission's proposal aims to simplify the delivery of the EMFF compared to the complex architecture of the current period, and give greater flexibility to Member States to use the EMFF in a way that best meets their needs. Measures or eligibility rules will no longer be pre-defined at EU level. Instead of selecting measures from a menu of eligible actions as is currently the case, national programmes will focus on the strategic priorities chosen by each Member State.

This architecture will make it easier for beneficiaries to access EMFF support and allow them to focus on achieving results, without losing time and energy in burdensome administrative procedures.

Can anything be supported by the EMFF? Are there safeguards and restrictions?

The Commission proposes that Member States are granted greater flexibility in defining eligibility rules, depending on their national strategy for implementing the EMFF. However, as during the 2014-2020 period, the Commission's proposal does contain a list of operations that cannot be funded so as to avoid detrimental impacts on fish stocks and marine ecosystems. This includes, for example, a general ban of investments enhancing fishing capacity.

Moreover, investments and compensation for the fishing fleet (permanent cessation of fishing activities, extraordinary cessation of fishing activities, acquisition of a vessel, engine replacement) will be strictly conditional upon their consistency with the conservation objectives of the CFP. This is key to ensuring that financial support is used to achieve the CFP objectives and does not jeopardise the conservation of marine biological resources.

More information

Legal texts and factsheets on natural resources and environment

[1] OECD (2016), The Ocean Economy in 2030, OECD Publishing, Paris


Publication date
12 June 2018
Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries