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Oceans and fisheries
Supplementary information11 June 2018Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries7 min read

Questions & Answers about the state of play on implementing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and Fishing Opportunities in the EU for 2019

The European Commission has published a Communication containing a state of play of the implementation of the CFP to prepare the setting of next year's fishing opportunities and it now asks for the views of Member States and stakeholders.

The European Commission has adopted its annual consultation document in preparation for the setting of 2019 fishing opportunities later in the year. The document also contains an update on the state of play of the implementation of the reformed CFP. The Com­mission asks for the views of Member States, the Advisory Councils, the fishing industry and NGOs, as well as interested citizens and organisations via an online public consultation. The Commission will use the input when preparing its proposals on fishing opportunities and for future implementation of the CFP.

Why is the Commission reporting on the state of play on the implementation of the CFP, and on what indicators is the assessment made?

We are now in the fifth year of implementation of the reformed CFP. This gives us the opportunity to assess progress towards the achievement of its main objectives, notably sustainability. The Communication reports on this by looking at:

  • progress made in the exploitation and state of the stocks;
  • concrete efforts to reverse the preoccupying situation in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea;
  • the balance between the capacity of the EU fleet and the available fishing opportunities;
  • the socio-economic performance of the EU fleet;
  • the implementation of the landing obligation;
  • progress with decentralising fisheries management – a key shift within the reformed CFP and
  • the external dimension of the CFP.

Ensuring that the exploitation of living marine biological resources restores and maintains populations of harvested species above levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield – which also contributes to achieving good environmental status in European seas by 2020 – is the key objective of the CFP.

What is the state of play on the economic performance of the EU Fleet?

The EU fleet's economic performance has improved significantly in recent years and has a positive impact on many EU coastal communities. The EU fleet registered record net profits of EUR 1.3 billion in 2016. In terms of net profit margin, it was with 17%, markedly higher than the margin in 2015 (11%). Projections for 2017 and 2018 suggest positive economic results. Average salaries and labour productivity have also increased.

The overall improvement in the EU fleet's profitability coincides with an increase in the number of fish stocks being fished at rates consistent with the objective of achieving MSY and an associated increase in the biomass of these stocks.

What are fishing opportunities? How are they set?

Each year the Commission tables the so-called Total Allowable Catches (TACs) to be ap­plied the following year to most commercial stocks in EU waters except for the Mediterranean Sea. The proposed amounts are based on biological advice and economic analysis from independent bodies. Later in the year the Council composed of the Fisheries Ministers of each Member State makes a final decision on these TACs. Once fixed, the amounts are divided up among Member States according to pre-agreed shares, the so-called quotas. Member States manage the national quotas and allocate them among the fishing industry, as a right to fish and land a certain amount of fish within the calendar year.

This is how fishing opportunities are set in EU waters. For fishing opportunities agreed under the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the Commission negotiate conservation and management issues, including fishing opportunities, for the species managed under the authority of these organisations. The measures adopted by RFMOs and in particular any fishing opportunities for the EU, are incorporated in the Fishing Opportunities Regulation. The timeline for this incorporation follows the calendar of the meetings of these organisations.

Where does the scientific advice come from?

Fishermen provide data on their catches and fishing activity, which are used by fisheries experts who then assess the state of the stocks. The experts also use samples from com­mercial landings and from discards, and use research vessels to sample the amounts of fish in the sea in different sites and at different times of year. They determine the state of the stock and then calculate how much should be fished the following year to achieve sustainability. This work is done under the coordination of the independent International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that provides the Commission with independent and authoritative advice. In some cases other advisory bodies, such as the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), are consulted.

What is the basis for the fishing opportunities?

The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy sets the objective of reaching maximum sustain­able yield (MSY) as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest. MSY translates into deliv­ery of the highest possible long-term catches. At the same time it contributes to the sus­tainable conservation of the stocks and allows for maximisation of fish supply from fishing. The TACs are set with a view to ensuring MSY.

Since 2015 a landing obligation is being introduced gradually, thereby prohibiting the throwing back of fish to the sea once it has been caught. The landing obligation requires all catches of regulated commercial species on-board to be landed and counted against quota, unless an exemption has been introduced in line with the rules in place. These are species under TAC and so called quotas such as mackerel or, in the Mediterranean, species which have a MLS (minimum landing size) such as gilt-head sea-bream. Undersized fish cannot be marketed for direct human consumption purposes whilst prohibited species (e.g. basking shark) cannot be retained on board and must be returned to the sea. The discarding of prohibited species should be recorded in the logbook and forms an important part of the science base for the monitoring of these species.

This change has implications for the levels of relevant TACs, which can be adjusted according to biological advice to take into account that previously discarded fish is now landed.

Is the policy working?

Yes. In the Northeast Atlantic area (including the North and Baltic Seas), the move to­wards sustainability is both widespread and visible. While in the early 2000s most stocks were overfished, overall stocks are on average fished sustainably. This is tangible and important progress towards achieving the objectives of the CFP.

In the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea most stocks are still overfished. While Mem­ber States have put in place management plans for their fisheries on a local or regional basis, these have yet to show tangible results. With an improving knowledge base and in­creasing biological advice for these areas, the challenges for the fisheries in these sea ba­sins are also becoming more obvious.

What are the steps of the Commission with regards to the situation within the Mediterranean and the Black Sea?

The European Commission has taken significant steps to tackle overfishing in the Mediterranean and Black Sea, both at the EU level and with its international partners.

At the EU level, one of the Commission's priorities is to further align the national management plans adopted under the Mediterranean Regulation with the CFP. In 2017, five national management plans were reviewed and updated in line with STECF advice. These include plans for fisheries conducted with boat seines, shore seines, gangui and small purse seines in Croatia, France, Greece and Spain. This process will accelerate in 2018. Better enforcement and control is also a priority in these sea basins. In 2017, the Commission extended the scope of the specific control and inspection programme (SCIP) for the Mediterranean to cover the hake and deep-water rose shrimp in the Strait of Sicily. The number of joint campaigns coordinated by the European Fisheries Control Agency has also substantially increased. From 482 inspections in 2014 – on bluefin tuna – to 2,855 inspections in 2017 –dedicated to bluefin tuna, swordfish, albacore, small pelagics in the Adriatic Sea and demersal species in the Strait of Sicily.

At the international level, the Commission's aim is to translate the political commitments of the ‘Malta MedFish4Ever Declaration’ into concrete actions. Within the framework of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean and Black Sea (GFCM), in 2017 important measures proposed by the EU were agreed:

  • a MAP for turbot in the Black Sea;
  • a regional plan of action to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU);
  • an international joint inspection and surveillance scheme outside the waters under national jurisdiction of the Strait of Sicily;
  • a regional adaptive management plan for the exploitation of red coral in the Mediterranean; and
  • a fisheries restricted area in the Jabuka/Pomo Pit in the Adriatic Sea.

How does decentralisation of fisheries management work?

The CFP has shifted to more decentralised governance on the basis of multiannual plans at sea basin level and delegated acts adopted through regionalisation. Regionalisation is an important element within the reformed CFP (article 18). It gives Member States the possibility to cooperate on a regional basis and agree on Joint Recommendations for achieving the objectives of environmental legislation or for shaping specific discard plans. The Advisory Councils (ACs), stakeholder organisations composed of representatives from the industry and from other interest groups, play a central role in regionalisation, as Member States must consult the ACs on the Joint Recommendations. More generally, the ACs are tasked with providing the Commission and Member States with recommendations and information on fisheries management and the socioeconomic and conservation aspects of fisheries and aquaculture.


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