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Oceans and fisheries

Common fisheries policy (CFP)

The CFP is a set of rules for sustainably managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks.

Overview

Originally a part of the common agricultural policy (CAP), the common fisheries policy (CFP) aimed to

  • increase productivity
  • stabilise markets
  • provide a source of healthy food 
  • ensure reasonable prices for consumers

Over time, the CFP evolved into a separate policy with its own legislation and structural framework, including the common market organisation introduced in 1970.

As more countries joined the EU with significant fisheries resources and fleets, the policy needed to address issues like resource conservation and international relations, especially after the establishment of exclusive economic zones (EEZ).

2023 fisheries policy package

In February 2023 the European Commission presented a package of measures to improve the sustainability and resilience of the EU's fisheries and aquaculture sector. It includes four elements:

1. Communication on the functioning of the common fisheries policy

The communication on ‘The common fisheries policy today and tomorrow' assesses the functioning of the common fisheries policy, 10 years after the last reform in 2013.

2. Protecting marine ecosystems

The EU Action Plan: Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries is part of the Commission's efforts to achieve a more consistent implementation of the EU's environmental policy and the common fisheries policy with its three sustainability pillars – environmental, economic and social.

3. Energy transition in the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector

The Commission is proposing to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and aim towards climate neutral fisheries and aquaculture sector, in line with one of the ambitions of the European Green Deal to reach climate neutrality in the EU by 2050. It is proposing measures to support the sector in accelerating its energy transition, by improving fuel efficiency and switching to renewable, low-carbon power sources.

4. Common market organisation

The Commission takes stock of the implementation of the reformed market policy.

The goals of the measures are to encourage cleaner energy use, decrease reliance on fossil fuels, and lessen the sector's impact on marine ecosystems. These actions will be implemented slowly to assist the industry in adjusting. A 'Pact for Fisheries and Oceans' will help enforce the common fisheries policy with the help of Member States and stakeholders. The proposals also aim to make the industry more appealing to younger workers.

2013 CFP reform

The latest reform from 2013 is based on three main pillars

The new CFP is meant to ensure that the activities of the fishing and aquaculture sectors are environmentally sustainable in the long term and are managed in a way that is consistent with the objectives of achieving economic, social and employment benefits. The most important points are

Law

The legal basis for the common fisheries policy is established in articles 38-43 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

Directory of legislation in force

EU's law-making process explained

Timeline

  1. 2024
    January

    The Control Regulation (EU) 2023/2842 entered into force. Most provisions apply after two or four years, to allow time for implementation.

  2. 2023
    October 2023

    The foresight project on ‘Fishers of the Future’ was launched. The ‘Fishers of the Future’ study is a key element of the ‘Pact for Fisheries and Oceans’, announced in February 2023, to examine the future role of fishers in society up to 2050.

  3. 2018
    2018

    The Commission's proposal to revise the fisheries control system is adopted on 30 May 2018.

    The Commission decides to propose a number of changes to the control regulation, as well as targeted amendments to the regulation on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing(IUU regulation) and to the EFCA founding regulation. 

  4. 2013
    2013

    The current CFP is adopted in December 2013, becoming applicable as of 1 January 2014.

    It focuses on the management of fisheries (whereas earlier CFP regulations focused only on stock conservation), and it includes aquaculture. Achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020, and having healthy fish stocks form the guiding principles of the 2013 CFP. Based on scientific advice, fishing must be adjusted to bring exploitation to the levels that maximise yields within the boundaries of sustainability.

  5. 2008
    2008

    The Commission launches a reflection on further reforming the CFP in 2008, leading to the adoption of a Green Paper on the reform of the CFP the following year. A broad consultation process lead to the adoption of Commission proposals for a new Basic Regulation and a new Common Market Organisation in July 2011.

  6. 2002
    2002

    The 2002 reform allows for some further progress, but does not lead to a sustainable recovery – 88% of stocks are still overfished.

  7. 1995
    1995

    Three years after the 1995 revision, the Commission asks a group of experts to review the policy. The group concludes that a draconian reduction of the fleet is urgently needed considering: 40% overcapacity, a huge disequilibrium between fishing capacity and available resources, despite limited nominal reductions no significant real capacity reduction under the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP)'s.

  8. 1992
    1992

    The 1992 revision and the new basic regulation now focuses on a “rational and responsible exploitation” of resources, while recognising the interest of the fishing industry to ensure its long-term development and economic and social conditions and the consumers’ interest, “taking into account the biological constraints as well as respect for the marine ecosystem”.

    The short-term goals of the 1992 reform are to

    • reduce the fishing to levels consistent with sustainability
    • reduce the size of fleets to levels consistent with sustainability
    • reduce the employment in a controlled manner and provide alternative work in fishing-dependent areas.

    The strategy consists of mandatory reduction of fleet capacity in combination with structural measures to alleviate the social consequences (both scrapping subsidies and other social measures). Next to TACs, the concept of fishing effort is introduced to help attain the balance between the fishing activities and the available resources. Access to specific waters or fisheries became increasingly subject to fishing permits.

  9. 1985-1990
    1985-1990

    The CFP has to adapt first to the withdrawal of Greenland (in 1985) and then the accession of Spain and Portugal (in 1986) and the reunification of Germany (in 1990).  All three events have a serious impact on the size and structure of the European fleet and its catch capacity.

  10. 1983
    1983

    The Council adopts the first basic regulation of the CFP. The regulation confirms the commitment to the EEZ and includes measures for conservation and management of the fisheries resources, based on the so-called Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas. It also establishes a concept of relative stability.

    The 1983 policy also introduces a comprehensive structural policy, with measures to manage the fleet capacity on the one hand, while at the same time granting subsidies for the building and modernisation of vessels.

    Gradually, both the TACs and the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) for fleet management are tightened. Technical measures, such as the introduction of areas with limited access and technical requirements such as minimum mesh sizes for fishing nets are introduced to protect juvenile fish.

  11. 1979
    1979

    The power to adopt conservation measures passes from individual EU countries to the EC.

    EU countries retain powers to introduce limited measures, which are non-discriminatory (treating all EU-fishermen equally) and necessary for conservation goals.

    With the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the principle of jurisdiction by the coastal state concerned over the management of marine resources within its EEZ is established.

  12. 1970
    1970

    The Council adopts a specific legislation, the common market organisation, and puts in place a structural policy for fisheries.

Publications

Possibilities and examples for energy transition of fishing and aquaculture sectors

21 FEBRUARY 2023
Actions for sustainable and resilient fisheries, aquaculture and marine ecosystems
10 FEBRUARY 2021
The new common fisheries policy: sustainability in depth
3 MARCH 2021
The international dimension of the EU common fisheries policy
10 FEBRUARY 2021
The European Maritime And Fisheries Fund 2014-2020
10 FEBRUARY 2021
EU: Sustainable Tools for the World's Largest Seafood Market
  • News announcement

Today, the European Commission launched a consultation to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of the common fisheries policy (CFP). This consultation constitutes the first part of a thorough evaluation that will look at how the CFP has achieved its objectives since 2013.

  • 2 min read
  • News article

From the shores of Sardinia to the coasts of Greece, fishers are embarking on new adventures to make their trade known to the wider public. With the support of Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs), fishers are being trained, going on study visits, and learning to diversify their income. 

  • 3 min read

Media