Skip to main content
Oceans and fisheries
News announcement7 June 2019Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries4 min read

Sustainable fisheries: Commission presents progress made and opportunities for 2020

The European Commission has adopted a Communication, taking stock of the implementation of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy and launching a consultation on the fishing opportunities for 2020.

The Communication reaffirms the Commission’s commitment to promoting fisheries that are both environmentally sustainable and economically viable. Member States, Advisory Councils, the fishing industry, non-governmental organisations, and interested citizens are invited to express their views on the fishing opportunities in 2020 via a public consultation that launches 11 June.

Commissioner Karmenu Vella, responsible for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “This year we see yet again that our persistent action to restore the health of our shared fish resources are bearing fruit. Thanks to the joint efforts of fishermen, industry, authorities and scientists, our fish stocks are recovering, and the earnings of our fishermen are increasing. This is, of course, great news, but it doesn't mean in any way that our job is done. Next year is a crucial year. All Member States agreed that by 2020 all stocks must be managed sustainably. For this, we need to step up our actions and deliver on what we set out to achieve.”

The EU continues to make progress in attaining sustainable fisheries. More stocks in the North-West Atlantic and adjacent areas are being fished sustainably. The biomass in these areas is 36% higher now than in 2003.

Next year is an important landmark for fisheries in the EU. EU Member States have agreed to bringing commercial fishing pressure to sustainable levels by 2020, in line with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The MSY represents the maximum amount of fish that fishermen can take out of the sea without compromising the regeneration of the stock. The main objective of the Commission’s proposals for the fishing opportunities for 2020, will be to set fishing opportunities at MSY level for all assessed stocks. In the Western Mediterranean, the Commission's proposal will follow the newly agreed Multiannual Plan (MAP), which establishes that the fishing effort should be reduced by 10% in the first year of the MAP and sustainability should be achieved by 2025 at the latest.

Healthy stocks result in better economic performance of the EU fleet. The economic performance of the EU fleet has improved, registering record-high net profits of EUR 1.3 billion in 2017. Wages have increased on average with 2.7% per year. Evidence shows that fleets exploiting healthy stocks have positive economic results. This is the case for fleets targeting haddock, megrim and plaice in the Irish Sea, herring, Northern hake, sole in the Eastern and Western English Channel, anglerfish in the Bay of Biscay. These fleets improved their profitability and salaries, while fleets targeting overexploited stocks, tend to perform worse.

In the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, the situation remains worrying: 35 out of the 40 stocks assessed were exploited beyond sustainable levels in 2017.Further joint efforts are required in the context of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) Strategy and of the 2018 Sofia Ministerial Declaration. From its side, the Commission will continue to work closely with all the stakeholders to implement the Western Mediterranean Multiannual plan.

This year marked the full entry into force of the landing obligation, compelling all EU vessels to bring to shore their catches. Throughout 2019, the European Commission engaged intensively with the stakeholders to facilitate its implementation. Although Member States increased the planned spending under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to improve selectivity and facilitate the implementation of the landing obligation, monitoring and enforcing compliance with the landing obligation remains a concern. We need new and innovative control tools. Therefore, the Commission will continue to work closely with the co-legislators in order to reach an agreement as soon as possible on the proposal for a revised Fisheries Control System.


Every year, the Commission publishes the annual Communication, commonly known as "Policy Statement", outlining progress on the situation of fish stocks and launching a wide public consultation on the fixing of annual fishing opportunities for the following year. This Communication assesses the state of play of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and sets out the rationale for the proposals on fishing opportunities for the following year. Via an online public consultation, the Commission invites input from Member States, Advisory Councils - which include the fishing industry and NGOs - and interested citizens and organisations. In the autumn, the Commission will table its proposals on fishing opportunities for 2020 in the Atlantic, the North and Baltic Seas, as well as in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The proposals take into account the multi-annual plans and are based on independent scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea and other independent bodies, as well as the economic analysis provided by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. The proposals will also incorporate adjustments resulting from the landing obligation. The Council of Fisheries Ministers of the European Union discusses the Commission's proposal and establishes the allocation of fishing opportunities.

More information

Questions and Answers

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the State of Play of the Common Fisheries Policy and Consultation on the Fishing Opportunities for 2020 - COM/2019/274 final

Commission staff working document accompanying the document Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the State of Play of the Common Fisheries Policy and Consultation on the Fishing Opportunities for 2020 - SWD/2019/205 final