Fisheries management

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(mainly according to Crean & Lacambra, 2003)

The Fisheries Sector of the European Union

Fishing and aquaculture, broadly considered as commercial production of captured and cultured fish and shellfish, are important economic activities in the European Union. The leading economic impacts of the fisheries sector lies as employer in areas where there are often few alternatives as well as in fish processing industry and supply of fish to the EU market. The highest catches of fish and shellfish in the EU are commonly made by vessels from Denmark, Spain, The UK and France. Northern EU states generally account for a far greater production than those states with a Mediterranean boundary.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The fundamental policy that governs the interaction of the social and economic variable in the fish sector of the EU is the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In the context of the relationship between the xenobiotic and socio-economic variable it is important to briefly establish the nature, that is the origins, structure and function of this policy as it affects the fish sector of the EU. The early aims and objectives or foundation of the CFP that were established in 1957 have been developed incrementally to the following state of affairs:

“to provide for rational and responsible exploitation of living aquatic resources and of aquaculture, while recognizing the interest of the fisheries sector in its long term development and in its economic and social conditions and the interests of consumers taking into account the biological constraints, with due respect for the marine ecosystem.”

While the CFP’s approach, ‘equal access’ for Community Fishermen, satisfies the social equity aspect of the policy it has not proved a suitable basis for management of the community’s fish stocks.

Historically, The CFP has comprised three distinctly separate policy features relating to 1) structures, 2) markets and 3) conservation. Thus, the CFP was disposed to making provision for access to fish resources, the quarantee of supplies of fish to the consumers and the maintenance of market conditions.

Currently, the CFP is driven by a legislative programme that requires action by the European Commission. These actions include regular revision, as with the annual review of total allowable catches (TACs), periodic revision of the multi-annual guidance programme (MAGP) now in its third series (1993-1996), occasional action in response to specific, often short-run problems, and the continuing development of CFP, which is likely to take on increasing significance in the future. A growing feature is the need for joint actions, integrating fisheries and related policy areas.

The CFP sets quotas for which member states are allowed to catch what amounts of each fish species. Today, CFP enforces the exploitation of living aquatic resources that provides sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions ( It therefore strives for a comprehensive understanding of the biological, economic and social dimensions of fishing.

The Crisis in EU Fisheries in Relation to Xenobiotic Influences

Despite the efforts made the CFP has not been able to tackle problems that have unerringly drawn the fish sector into crisis. The Community’s policy lacks a formal structure and lays strong emphasis on maintaining the status of the commercially exploited fish stocks, this being criticised by scientists concerned with overfishing. The major fish stocks upon which the Community depends have, slipped beyond the brink of serious overfishing to the point where they are actually no longer sustainable. The failure to slow the rate of stock decline, let alone or reach a balance between catches and vessels, has led the fishing industries of the Community into a crisis which as deepened over the years. The Policy has been also criticized by fishermen, who say it is threatening their livelihoods.

Discards, one of the most acute symptoms of the crisis in the EU fish sector, have been proposed as a symptom of the incoherence and discord of existing policy. When access arrangements are controlled by communal institutions, discarding tends not to occur, because there are intrinsic local controls in place that will limit catching efficiency.

The European Commission has and continues to make serious efforts to address the problems of the fisheries sector for instance by variety of a regulatory schemes. Unfortunately, despite determined approaches to counteract overexploitation, the introduction of new regulatory means has failed to stem the erosion of the fisheries and as a result, the Commission now feels it must go even further in its attempts to protect the fish stocks. As such, the Commission has approved a 30% cut in fish catches to be brought in over a five year period.


  • Crean K & Lacambra C. 2003. From Population Ecology to Socio-Economic and Human Health Issues. In: Effects of Pollution on Fish, Molecular Effects and Population Responses. Lawrence AJ, Hemingway KL. (eds.), Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford, UK.

Additional reading on the topic:

  • Karjalainen J & Marjomäki T. 2005. Sustainability in fisheries management. In: Jalkanen A & Nygren P (eds.) 2005. Sustainable use of renewable natural resources — from principles to practices. University of Helsinki, Department of Forest Ecology Publications 34. here