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European Commission


Brussels, 30 May 2013

Questions and Answers on the new, reformed Common Fisheries Policy

The overall objective of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to make fishing sustainable - environmentally, economically and socially. The new policy will bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels and will stop wasteful fishing practices. It will provide EU citizens with a stable, secure and healthy food supply for the long term; it seeks to bring new prosperity to the fishing sector, end dependence on subsidies and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas. EU financial assistance through the proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (IP/11/1495) will be available to support the sustainability objectives of the new policy.

Why is a new policy necessary?

Europe’s fisheries policy is in urgent need of reform. Vessels are still catching more fish than can be safely reproduced. The fishing industry is facing an uncertain future.

Against this background, the European Commission proposed in 2011 an ambitious reform of the policy. This reform is about putting in place the conditions for a better future for fish and fisheries alike, as well as the marine environment that supports them. The reformed CFP will contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy and the policy will work towards robust economic performance of the industry, inclusive growth and enhanced cohesion in coastal regions.

Sustainability is at the heart of the CFP reform. Fishing sustainably means fishing at levels that do not endanger the reproduction of stocks and that provide high long-term yields. This requires managing the volume of fish taken out of the sea through fishing. Under the new CFP stocks must be exploited at sustainable levels, defined as the highest catch that can be safely taken year after year and which maintains the fish population size at maximum productivity. This level is known as the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY). This objective is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, and was confirmed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development as a target the world should reach by 2015. The new CFP shall set the fishing levels at MSY levels by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020 for all fish stocks.

Estimates1 show that if stocks are exploited in this way, stock sizes could increase by about 70%, with improved catch levels, incomes and wages for crews.

Fishing sustainably will also free the catching sector from depending on public support. It will make it easier to achieve stable prices under transparent conditions, bringing clear benefits for consumers.

What are the main elements of the new policy?

The multi-annual ecosystem-based management

To rebuild a vibrant fishing economy in Europe, the marine environment must be protected more effectively. EU fisheries will be managed by multi-annual plans and governed by the ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach to ensure that the impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem are limited. This will safeguard resources and maximise long-term yields.

Multi-annual management plans will move from the current single-stock plans to fisheries-based plans – covering more fish stocks in fewer plans in support of reaching sustainability. Stocks will also be managed through fixing fishing opportunities by Council, and other conservation and technical measures which are part of the toolbox of instruments proposed.

Banning discards

Discarding, that is the practice of throwing unwanted fish overboard, is estimated at 23% of total catches (substantially more in some fisheries!). This unacceptable practice will be phased out with a precise timeline for implementation (progressively between 2015 and 2019) and in combination with some flanking measures. Fishermen will be obliged to land all the commercial species that they catch. Under-sized fish can generally not be sold for human consumption.

Member States have to make sure that their fishing vessels are equipped to ensure full documentation of all fishing and processing activities so as to monitor compliance with the obligation to land all catches.

This ban will lead to more reliable data on fish stocks, support better management and improve resource efficiency. It is also an incentive for fishermen to avoid unwanted catches by means of technical solutions such as more selective fishing gear.

Management of fishing fleet capacity

Member States will have to ensure that the fleet capacity (number and size of vessels) is in balance with the fishing opportunities. Where a Member State identifies overcapacity in a fleet segment, it will develop an action plan to reduce this overcapacity. If a Member State does not achieve the necessary reduction of the fleet capacity, funding under the European financial instrument may be suspended.

Support for small-scale fisheries

In the EU, the small-scale fleet accounts for 77% of the total EU fleet in vessel numbers, but on average its impact on the resources is less, with only 8% of the EU total in tonnage (vessel size) and 32% of EU engine power. Small-scale coastal fisheries often play an important role in the social fabric and the cultural identity of many of Europe's coastal regions. They therefore require specific support. The reformed CFP extends to 2022 the right for Member States to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coastline. The future financial instrument for fisheries will include measures beneficial to small-scale fisheries and will help local economies adapt to the changes.

Developing sustainable aquaculture

A better framework for aquaculture will increase production and supply of seafood in the EU, reduce dependence on imported fish and boost growth in coastal and rural areas. By 2014, Member States will draft national strategic plans to remove administrative barriers and uphold environmental, social and economic standards for the farmed-fish industry. A new Aquaculture Advisory Council will be established to give advice on industry-related issues. There is a clear EU dimension in aquaculture development: strategic choices made at national level can have a bearing on such development in neighbouring Member States.

Improving scientific knowledge

Reliable and up-to-date information about the state of marine resources is essential to support sound management decisions as well as effective implementation of the reformed CFP. The CFP establishes the basic rules and obligations for Member States in this area. Member states will be entrusted with collecting, maintaining and sharing data about fish stocks, fleets and the impact of fishing at sea-basin level. National research programmes will be established to coordinate this activity

Decentralised governance

The new CFP will bring decisions closer to the fishing grounds, and it will clarify roles and obligations of each actor. It will end micro-management from Brussels so that EU legislators will only define the general framework, the basic principles and standards, the overall targets, the performance indicators and the timeframes. Member States will then develop recommendations on the actual implementing measures, and will cooperate at regional level. When all Member States concerned agree, these recommendations can be transposed into rules applicable to all fishermen concerned.

New market policy - empowerment of the sector and better informed consumers

The new market policy aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU industry, improve the transparency of the markets, and ensure a level playing field for all products marketed in the Union.

The existing intervention regime will be modernized and simplified: producer organisations will be allowed to buy up fisheries products when prices fall under a certain level, and store the products for placing them on the market at a later stage. This system will foster market stability.

Producer organisations will also play a greater role in collective management, monitoring and control. New marketing standards on labelling, quality and traceability will give consumers clearer information and help them support sustainable fisheries. Certain labelling information will be compulsory, other claims may be supplied on a voluntary basis.

Taking international responsibility

Many of the world's fish stocks are reported as being either fully exploited or overexploited, according to the FAO. The EU, being the world's largest importer of fisheries products in terms of value, must act abroad as at home. The external fisheries policy must be an integrated part of the CFP. In international and regional organisations, the EU will therefore advocate the principles of sustainability and conservation of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. It will establish alliances and undertake actions with key partners to combat illegal fishing and reduce overcapacity.

In bilateral fishing agreements with non-EU countries, the EU will promote sustainability, good governance and the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) will replace the existing Agreements and they will ensure that the exploitation of fishery resources takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice only targeting surplus resources that the partner country cannot or does not want to fish itself. Under SFPAs, partner countries shall be compensated for granting access to their fishing resources and financial assistance shall be provided to the partner countries for the implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy.

Will there be new rules on Control and Enforcement?

The proposal is consistent with the EU's new control regime from 20102 and integrates the basic elements of the control and enforcement regime for compliance with the rules of the CFP. In light of the introduction of the landing obligation to avoid discards the Commission proposes monitoring and control obligations in particular in relation to fully documented fishery, as well as pilot projects on new fisheries control technologies that contribute to sustainable fishing.

When will the reform come into effect?

With the new policy now agreed at political level, finalisation and formal adoption will follow in the next months. The new policy will enter into force by 1 January 2014. Implementation of the new rules will be progressive, for instance on the landing obligation, because there is a need for the sector to adapt and to be able to deliver results. But the reform sets clear deadlines.

For more information:

Reform of the CFP website:

1 :

Impact Assessment Accompanying Commission proposal for a Regulation on the Common Fisheries Policy

2 :

Council Regulations No 1005/2008 and No 1224/2009

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