Mon. Jul 15th, 2024
Brussels, 14 June 2023

The overall sustainability of the EU fisheries has improved and fewer stocks are overfished, according to a Commission Communication ‘Sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2024′. At the same time, more efforts are necessary to ensure the resilience of fishing activities and continuous improvement of the fish stocks status. The Commission’s Communication is based on independent scientific assessments.

Today’s communication outlines the orientations for the Commission proposals for fishing opportunities for 2024 and starts a consultation process with interested actors. The proposals will aim to keep stocks that have reached sustainable levels already at those levels, and help other fish stocks recover.

Improvements in Northeast Atlantic, Mediterranean and Black Sea

The Communication shows that fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic are generally within healthy ranges, with the latest assessment pointing to the best so far sustainability results. A particularly positive example is the Bay of Biscay, which in the latest assessment from 2021 became the first EU sea area with no stocks overfished. This proves the EU sustainable fisheries management decisions are paying off.

In the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, while stocks are slowly becoming healthier, fishing mortality continues to pose difficulties. The fishing mortality rate for 2020, the latest available data, is the lowest so far, but it is still 71% above the recommended sustainability rate. Additional efforts are therefore still required. Moreover, fishing communities are being affected by climate change, leading to uncertainties due to the declining availability of fish stocks they depend on for their livelihood. Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing also impacts the access of fishers to sufficient resources and further efforts are required to combat it, ensuring compliance with measures, including those involving third countries.

The situation in the Baltic remains challenging, as other pressures than fishing impact fish populations. The Commission will continue to take measures to address all the various pressures on fish stocks and help improving the state of the ecosystems in the Baltic Sea. Nevertheless, Member States should also continue their efforts to reverse this situation by fully implementing the EU legislation.

The Commission proposed a package of measures last February to improve the sustainability and resilience of the EU’s fisheries and aquaculture sector and address many of those challenges including economic and environmental.

Finally, Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has had an impact on EU fisheries in several ways, especially in the Black Sea. It has led to ongoing disruptions of fishing activities and trade flows, had an impact on scientific advice and on certain negotiations at international level.

Next steps

Member States, Advisory Councils, the fishing industry, non-governmental organisations and interested citizens are encouraged to share their perspectives on the state of play and future directions of the fishing opportunities for 2024. They are invited to express their views until 9 August as part of the online public consultation.

After the public consultation, the Commission will table its three proposals for Fishing Opportunities Regulations for 2024: in the Atlantic and North Sea, the Baltic Sea, as well as the Mediterranean and Black Seas. The proposals will take into account multi-annual plans and will be based on scientific advice provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), as well as the economic analysis provided by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF). The proposals will also incorporate adjustments resulting from the implementation of the landing obligation.

Finally, the Council will discuss the Commission’s proposals and decide on the fish quotas for 2024 at its meetings in October and December this year.


Every year, the Commission releases a Communication that provides updates on the on the state of the EU fisheries and initiates a public consultation on the current situation and the future directions of fishing opportunities for the upcoming year.

This Communication reports on the advancements made in achieving sustainable practices within the EU, assesses the balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities, examines the socio-economic performance of the sector and monitors the implementation of the landing obligation.

The Communication reports on various elements using different sources with the latest supporting data available. The latest data on fish stocks included in the report for analysing the status of stocks is from 2020 for the Mediterranean and the Black Seas and from 2021 for the EU waters of northeast Atlantic, including the Skagerrak/Kattegat and the Baltic Sea.

For More Information

Questions and answers

Communication ‘Sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2024′

Common Fisheries Policy

Progress towards sustainability in EU fisheries, 2003-2022

Sustainable fisheries

Red line: Stocks in the Mediterranean and Black Sea

Blue line: Stocks in the EU waters of northeast Atlantic, including the Skagerrak/Kattegat and the Baltic Sea

Source – EU Commission

Q&A: EU Commission’s Annual Communication on “Sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2024”


Brussels, 14 June 2023

Why is the Commission reporting on fisheries today?

In line with Regulation 1380/2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission releases every year a Communication that provides updates on the state of the EU fisheries. This initiates a public consultation on the current situation and the future directions of fishing opportunities for 2024.

Fishing opportunities, or total allowable catches (TACs) – the catch limits for certain fish stocks –  are quotas set for most of Europe’s commercial fish stocks in order to keep their status healthy or to help them regenerate, while ensuring that EU fishers have healthy fish stocks to rely on for their livelihood. Under the common fisheries policy (CFP), EU Member States are legally bound to manage fish stocks at sustainable levels.

Which are the key indicators of this assessment?

The EU is now in the tenth year of the implementation of the CFP following its reform in 2013. The Communication assesses the progress made towards the achievement of the CFP’s main objectives: preserving fish stocks, protecting the marine environment and ensuring the economic viability of the EU fishing fleet.

Today’s Communication reviews in particular:

  • the progress made in bringing the exploitation of fish stocks in line with legally binding sustainability objectives / parameters;
  • the balance between the capacity of the EU fleet and the available fishing opportunities;
  • the social and economic performance of the EU fleet; and
  • the implementation of the landing obligation (i.e. all catches must be taken to port).
How is the EU fleet performing economically?

As fuel costs are one of the major cost items for the EU fishing fleet, the peak in fuel prices due to Russia’s military aggression against Ukraine has had a high impact on the socio-economic performance of the EU’s fishing fleet. After peaking in the summer of 2022, fuel prices have gradually fallen, enabling the EU fishing fleet to move from a loss-making position in 2022 to overall post a small profit in 2023. Nevertheless, current fuel prices, which remain 70% higher than in 2021, would generate very small to no net profit on average in 2023. Thus, the EU fishing fleet will remain financially vulnerable unless dependence on fossil fuels is reduced.

Socio-economic performance is not even across all fleet segments, however. There are differences across fleet segments and fishing regions, depending on the state of the fish stocks at regional level and the different levels of energy efficiency across the fleet segments:

  • Fleet segments that depend on stocks exploited sustainably and that increased their energy efficiency (or reduced their fuel intensity) tend to be more resilient and generate higher salaries for their fishers.
  • On the other hand, fleet segments that depend on overexploited stocks and have high fuel consumption usually show poor economic performance and lower salaries.

The Commission has made a move to facilitate the energy transition of the EU’s fisheries and aquaculture sector by adopting in February this year a Communication encompassing a set of measures to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and aiming towards climate neutral fisheries and aquaculture sector. The Commission proposed measures to support the sector in accelerating its energy transition, by improving fuel efficiency and switching to renewable, low-carbon power sources. One of the key actions is an Energy Transition Partnership for EU Fisheries and Aquaculture, which will bring together all stakeholders, including in fisheries, aquaculture, shipbuilding, ports, energy, NGOs, national and regional authorities, to collectively address the challenges of the sector’s energy transition. The Partnership will officially be launched this week.

What is the state of play of fish stocks in the various sea basins?

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 now, on average, fished sustainably. This is tangible and important progress towards achieving the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). To illustrate the value of sound management, in the Bay of Biscay, for the first time under the CFP, no stocks were overfished in 2021. However, many Baltic Sea fisheries are facing severe challenges.

In the Mediterranean and the Black Seas, most stocks are still overfished, but there is a  clear positive trend towards less overfishing. The fishing mortality rate has fallen the most in the eastern Mediterranean followed by the Black Sea and the western Mediterranean. There has been little change in the Central Mediterranean. Where the fishing mortality rate has fallen, the biomass of fish stock is increasing. This helps improve catches and the profitability of fisheries and increases their carbon-efficiency (in terms of kg of fish caught per kg of carbon emitted). More efforts are still required to increase sustainability in the two sea basins.

What measures is the Commission taking to address the situation in the Baltic Sea?

The dire situation in the Baltic Sea and its rivers continues to affect fish stocks and their development. There are various pressures in the Baltic Sea today, which have led to the degradation of its biodiversity, such as high pollution from nutrient inputs and persistently high levels of contaminants. This, in part, stems from failure to implement EU legislation.

The Baltic Sea multi-annual fisheries management plan uses all tools of fisheries policy – suspended target fisheries for four out of ten fish stocks, setting TACs below maximum advised level, closures of certain areas where fish is spawning and limiting recreational fishing- to help fish stocks recover. However, unless Member States fully apply and implement the entire relevant EU legislation, the fisheries policy tools will not be enough to enable all fish stocks to recover. Following a first edition in 2020, the second “Our Baltic” conference will take place on 29 September 2023, to discuss with the Baltic Sea Member States about achievements and challenges moving forward.

What measures is the Commission taking to address the situation in the Mediterranean and the Black Seas?

The Commission encourages Member States to continue their efforts to achieve the objectives of the WestMed MAP and to develop accompanying actions under the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF). The Commission’s Fishing Opportunities proposal will promote the implementation of the West Med MAP to reach MSY by 1st January 2025. The Commission will report on the functioning of this plan by July 2024.

Management of shared stocks is also necessary to secure a level playing field between all fishers in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. The Commission and Member States will therefore continue working in the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean  and will include the results in the Fishing Opportunities proposal for 2024.

What is the state of play of the implementation of the landing obligation?

When it comes to the landing obligation, now in the fifth year of its full application, compliance and control remain weak. The Commission’s audits and the initiatives of the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) indicate a general lack of compliance.

Part of the solution must come from new and innovative control tools, notably the use of remote electronic monitoring (REM). This has been provisionally agreed with the Parliament and Council in the context of the Commission’s proposal for a revised Fisheries Control System. The Commission encourages Member States to improve the use of available funds to improve selectivity and reduce unwanted catches.

Weak compliance, undocumented discarding and misreporting of catches undermines the accuracy of catch data (landings, unwanted catches, and discards) and reporting, which underpin the quality of scientific advice. The Commission will work with Member States’ regional groups and the STECF on a review of the exemptions to the landing obligation to improve  data accuracy.

How has the withdrawal of the UK from the EU affected setting TACs with third countries?

Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the EU does not exclusively decide on the Atlantic and North Sea stocks. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) with the UK allows for consultations about TAC levels in order to find agreements. The conclusions of other consultations with third countries in the Northeast Atlantic (EU-UK-Norway, EU-Norway, other coastal States) are also taken into account when fixing TACs for shared stocks.

The TCA provides a solid basis for the sustainable management and exploitation of shared fish stocks. The EU continues defending its goals in annual consultations on fishing opportunities through the EU-UK Specialised Committee on Fisheries (SCF) established under the TCA.

Consultations with the UK will take place between October and December, aiming for a timely conclusion ahead of December’s Council. By then, the Commission aims to propose that the results are included into the 2024 TAC Regulation. If there is no agreement by 20 December, the TCA provides for each party to set provisional TACs applying from 1 January at the level advised by ICES, with TACs for special stocks set in accordance with guidelines. The SCF is currently developing these guidelines.

What are the fishing opportunities? How are they set?

Every year, the Commission proposes total allowable catches (TACs), which are the catch limits for fish stocks. TACs apply to most commercial stocks in northern EU waters and to tuna and swordfish in the Mediterranean Sea.

Independent scientific advice and socio-economic analysis are the basis for the Commission to propose amounts.

Later in the year, the Council, composed of the fisheries ministers of Member States, makes a final decision concerning the TACs. Once TACs are fixed, the amounts are split between Member States according to pre-agreed shares into national quotas. Member States manage these and allocate them among their fishing industry, as a possibility to catch and land a certain amount of fish during the calendar year (see infographic “Setting catch limits and quotas”).

The multi-annual plan for the Western Mediterranean (WestMed MAP) has the objective of achieving sustainable levels by 1st January 2025. For this reason, for 2024 the Council, based on scientific advice, will make a decision concerning the level of fishing opportunities for the stocks covered by the MAP, against the background of the multi annual plan’s objective.

For fishing opportunities agreed under the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the Commission negotiates conservation and management measures, including fishing opportunities. Fishing opportunities regulations incorporate the measures adopted by RFMOs and, in particular, those concerning the EU. The timeline for this incorporation follows the calendar of the meetings of these organisations.

Where does the scientific advice come from?

Fishers and national administrations provide data on their catches and fishing activity, allowing fisheries scientists to assess the state of the stocks. The scientists also use samples from commercial landings and discards. At the same time, they use research vessels to sample the amounts of fish in the sea in different sites and at different times of year, independently from the fishing activity. They determine the state of the stock and then calculate how much should be fished the following year to ensure sustainability. This work is done through the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), an independent body that provides the Commission with the scientific advice. In certain cases, as for the Mediterranean, other advisory bodies, such as the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) are consulted.

At international level, the process is similar: RFMOs’ use data from scientific bodies to provide the necessary scientific advice.

For More Information

Press release

Communication ‘Sustainable fishing in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2024′

Common Fisheries Policy

Source – EU Commission



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