April 2017

EU: Despite Reformed Common Fisheries Policy, We’re Still Overfishing

Photo: Light painting projection by marine conservation campaign group Our Fish reading “60% of EU Fisheries are unsustainable” outside the Brussels Seafood Expo, which opens on April 25.

Brussels, 25 April 2017:- As Europe, the world’s largest trader of seafood and fisheries products, this week welcomes thousands of seafood traders to the Global Seafood Expo in Brussels, the Our Fish campaign called on European member state governments to switch from overfishing to sustainable fisheries by properly implementing the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). [1]  

“Here at the Global Seafood Expo in Brussels, EU countries are paying lip service to sustainability, while off our coasts, Europe’s fish stocks are still being plundered in favour of short-term profit and clientelism, disregarding industry’s long-term viability and the health of our seas”,  said Rebecca Hubbard, Our Fish Campaign Manager.

“The European Union already agreed to a solid pathway for eliminating overfishing by voting for the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. Yet three years after the reform, six out of ten  EU fisheries in the North East Atlantic are still considered unsustainable”, continued Hubbard. “If EU member states really want to market sustainable fish by 2020, they must not only enforce the reformed CFP, but also restructure the fishing industry to allow for the recovery of fish stocks and secure long term solutions for its viability”.[2]

The recently published EU STECF report Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy found that around 6 out of 10 fisheries in the North East Atlantic managed by European nations are still considered unsustainable and do not meet the Common Fisheries Policy. According to the STECF report, in the last ten years the unsustainability of Europe’s fisheries dropped from 90% to 60%. However, the report does not regard this improvement sufficient to reach the CFP’s target of sustainability by 2020. [2]

“The industrial fishing lobby group Europêche claims that improvements in fish stocks reported by STECF is a ‘success story’ and that returning our fisheries to ‘greatness’ is due to ‘decades of self sacrifices’ a stance which conveniently ignores that industry has opposed the decreased fishing efforts required to achieve these improvements at almost every turn”, concluded Hubbard. [3]. “Once it’s finished congratulating itself for its moderate gains, the fishing industry needs to look at what it can do to make EU fisheries 100% sustainable by 2020”.

The STECF reports that fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea have worsened, with the highest levels of fishing pressure in the last ten years recorded in 2011 and 2014. [2] Industrial trawlers from Italy, Spain and France have the greatest impact on fish stocks and benthic ecosystems (along the seabed). [4] .

“After 20 years of decline, Mediterranean fisheries are now at a critical state, with 96% of EU fish stocks overfished. Despite the CFP reform, and recent commitments such as the Malta Declaration, EU countries are not taking the necessary urgent action – starting from  a substantial reduction of fishing effort and capacity in the Italian, Spanish and French trawl fleets – to save this globally significant marine environment and it’s diverse fishing communities for the next generation,” concluded Hubbard. [5,6]




[1] EUMOFA, 2016, The EU Fish Market 2016 Edition 


[2] Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) – Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy (STECF-17-04))


[3] Success story for European fisheries and policies http://europeche.chil.me/post/137153/success-story-for-european-fisheries-and-policies

[4] Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) – Western Mediterranean Multi-annual Plan STECF-15-09. 2015.  

[5] Oceana (2016). Mediterranean Sea, A key EU fishing region in a bleak state of overfishing

[6] European Commission, Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) June 2016 – Study on the evaluation of specific management scenarios for the preparation of multiannual management plans in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea


Download photographs of light paintings outside the Brussels Seafood Expo here:




Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, dave@our.fish +34 691826764


About Our Fish

Our Fish works to ensure European member states implement the Common Fisheries Policy and achieve sustainable fish stocks in European waters.

Our Fish brings together organisations from across Europe to speak with a common voice: overfishing of our waters must be stopped, and solutions put in place that ensure Europe’s waters are fished sustainably. Our Fish demands that the Common Fisheries Policy be properly enforced, and Europe’s fisheries effectively governed.

Our Fish calls on all EU Member States to set annual fishing limits at sustainable limits based on scientific advice, and to ensure that their fishing fleets prove that they are fishing sustainably, through monitoring and full documentation of their catch.