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Fisheries and Policies

Updated on October 2, 2014

The Common Fisheries Policy is a set of rules first introduced in the 1970s, for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Their aims are to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens (European Commission, 2013).

The new CFP reform from 01/01/14 seeks to bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels, put an end to wasteful fishing practices, and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas. To achieve this it focuses on banning discards, empowering the sector and decentralising decision making, prioritising aquaculture, supporting small scale fisheries, improving the scientific knowledge on the state of stocks, and taking responsibility in foreign waters through the EU's international agreements (European Commission, 2013).

Quotas are in place to ensure the fishing industry is sustainable and does not threaten the fish population size and productivity over the long term (King, 2013).

After a company’s quotas are hit, they are able to buy more from others. This is because the Common Fisheries Policy gives European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds, allowing fishermen to compete fairly (European Commission, 2012). This was demonstrated by Putten and Gardner (2010), in the Tasmanian rock lobster industry but appears to be applicable for others areas this in place, for different organisms, shown by Arnason (2013). However, allowing communities to hold quota may result in a loss of economic efficiency because communities may not have the knowledge and skills to manage the quota effectively, meaning larger companies can exploit them. Cardwell and Gear (2013) agreed, saying “transferable rights could make the fishery less efficient”.

Start up grants and loans have been put in place to solve this issue. They were given to new entrants who wished to purchase quota, allowing them a section in the market. Yet this idea had negative consequences, including that to be able to provide the money for this initiative, the quota prices had to increase (Tidd, 2011).

Another way of ensuring these fishermen do not go over their quotas is to throw the bycatch overboard. This is because the European Union quotas strictly limit the amount of fish that vessels can bring back to port, but there is no restriction on the amount of fish they actually catch. In 1997, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defined bycatch as "total fishing mortality, excluding that accounted directly by the retained catch of target species. In several European countries over half of the total recreational catch is released by marine anglers. High release proportions of >60% were found for Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), pollack (Pollachius pollachius), and sea trout (Salmo trutta) in at least one of the studied European countries (Ferter et al., 2013; Jordan, 2013).

This is an issue because these fish are usually already dead, dying or injured. Additionally, the long time it takes to sort these organisms, means that they without water and exposed to the sun for long periods of time (Jaiteh et al., 2014). This not only affects the caught individuals themselves but also has secondary effects for the entire species population (e.g. due to a lack of reproducing adults) and other species (due to predator or prey removal). Yet it could be said that at least these organisms being returned to the seas meant that the Carbon was returning back to the sea, a major carbon sink. Regardless, the fishermen lose money which they could have gained from selling these fish, wasting time and effort. Thus, the Fisheries Policy could be interpreted as having a negative impact on the environment and the economy, since it encourages this wastage.

It is important to reduce bycatch for other reasons also. An example of this is improved trawling and processing efficiency, since the catch would have a reduced drag and there would be a quicker sorting time (Chandrapavan et al, 2012). It also increases the quality of the fish for consumption, since if sorting is faster, the organisms can be stored quicker, without prolonged exposure to the sun.

Different methods of catching fish can be implemented to ensure only set organisms are caught, reducing bycatch. An example of this is that in a study by (Alfonso et al., 2011), suspending hooks in the middle of the water column reduced the bycatch of common demersal species, such as Carcharhinus acronotus, Ginglymostoma cirratum, and Dasyatis Americana. But it also increased the CPUE of potentially aggressive species, such as Galeocerdo cuvier and Carcharhinus leucas. However, this study was completed in Brazil, thus further research was done in areas more relevant to the EU fishers policy. An example of this is that fish aggregating devices (FADs), which have decreased dolphin bycatch; however, bycatch of sea turtles, sharks, and non-target teleost fish increased (Gilman, 2011). This demonstrates how attempting to specify gear to help particular animals can jeopardise the survival of others.

Methods of achieving this are still being developed. One such method is when the mesh openings of diamond mesh codend collapse as it fills, preventing the escape of small fish (not in square), decreasing efficiency but stopping escapages. Combine the two BRDs to get the advantage of each (Frandson et al., 2010).

Another useful piece of gear are fisheyes, that can be inserted into the codend to allow the fish to escape by swimming forwards. However, it is difficult to position them because they are dependent on the fish behaviour, catch composition and volume. They are also of a more simple and cheap design than other BRDs. They are also easy to handle and their position can be moved fairly easily (Frandson et al., 2010).

A further negative issue about such equipment is that the installation of some techniques may require specialised training and technology, which can be expensive and may exclude small businesses from these techniques. They can also be difficult to repair if they get damage or through general wear and tear. An example of this is that poor installation of soft TEDs can decrease trawl performance. However, it could be argued that it is economically viable because if customers are more environmentally aware, they would be more likely to purchase fish caught using environmentally-friendly fishing methods.

To conclude, to this day, the impact of fishing on the fragile marine environment is not fully understood.


Afonso, A., Hazin, F., Carvalho, F., Pacheco, J., Hazin, H., Kerstetter, D., Murie, D. and Burgess, G. (2011), ‘Fishing Gear Modifications to Reduce Elasmobranch Mortality in Pelagic and Bottom Longline Fisheries off Northeast Brazil. Fish Res., Volume 108, pages 336–343, Available at doi:10.1016/j.fishres.2011.01.007 (Accessed: 22/01/14).

Arnason, R. (2013), ‘Individual Transferable Quotas in Fisheries’, Reference Module in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences, from Encyclopaedia of Energy, Natural Resource, and Environmental Economics, Pages 183–191, Available at (Accessed: 21/01/14).

Cardwell, E. and Gear, R. (2013), Transferable Quotas, Efficiency and Crew Ownership in Whalsay, Shetland, Marine Policy, Volume 40, pages 160-166, Available at (Accessed: 22/01/14).

Chandrapavan, A., Kangas, M. and Sporer, E. (2012), Performance of Square-Mesh Codends in Reducing Discards and By-Catch in the Shark Bay Scallop Fishery, Marine and Freshwater Research, Volume 63 (issue 11), Available at 1142-1151 (Accessed: 22/02/14).

European Commission (2013), ‘European Current Fishery Policy Reform: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1419/2013 of 17 December 2013 Concerning the Recognition of Producer Organisations and Inter-Branch Organisations, the Extension of the Rules of Producer Organisations and Inter-Branch Organisations and the Publication of Trigger Prices as Provided for by Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products’, Available at (Accessed: 21/01/14).

European Commission (2013), ‘European Current Fishery Policy Reform: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1418/2013 of 17 December 2013 Concerning Production and Marketing Plans Pursuant to Regulation (EU) No 1379/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products’, Available at (Accessed: 21/01/14).

European Commission (2013), Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy, amending Council Regulations (EC) No 1954/2003 and (EC) No 1224/2009 and repealing Council Regulations (EC) No 2371/2002 and (EC) No 639/2004 and Council Decision 2004/585/EC, Official Journal of the European Union, Available at (Accessed: 21/01/14).

Ferter, K., Weltersbach, M., Strehlow, H., Vølstad, J., Alós, J., Arlinghaus, R., Armstrong, M., Dorow, M., de Graaf, M., van der Hammen, T., Hyder, K., Levrel, H., Paulrud, A., Radtke, K., Rocklin, D., Sparrevohn, C. and Veiga, P. (2013) ‘Unexpectedly High Catch-and-Release Rates in European Marine Recreational Fisheries: Implications for Science and Management, ICES Journal of Marine Science, Available at: doi.10.1093/icesjms/fst104 (Accessed: 22/01/14).

Frandson, R., Madsen, N. and Krag, L. (2010), ‘Selectivity and Escapement Behaviour of Five Commercial Fishery Species in Standard Square- and Diamond-Mesh Codends’, , ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 76 (issue 8), Available at (Accessed: 22/02/14).

Jaiteh, V., Allen, S., Loneragan, N. and Meeuwig, J. (2014), ‘Combining In-Trawl Video with Observer Coverage Improves Understanding of Protected and Vulnerable Species Bycatch in Trawl Fisheries’, Marine and Freshwater Research.

Jordan, L. (2013), ‘Linking Sensory Biology and Fisheries Bycatch Reduction in Elasmobranch Fishes: A Review with New Directions for Research, Conservational Physiology, Volume 1 (issue 1), Available at (Accessed: 22/01/14).

King, M. (2013), Fisheries Biology, Assessment and Management, Sydney: John Wiley and Sons, Chapter 6.5.2.

Putten, I. and Gardner, C. (2010), ‘Lease Quota Fishing in a Changing Rock Lobster Industry Marine Policy’, Marine Policy, Volume 34 (issue 5), pages 859-867, Available at (Accessed: 22/01/14).

Tidd, A., Hutton T., Kell, L. and Padda, G. (2011), ‘Exit and Entry of Fishing Vessels: An Evaluation of Factors Affecting Investment Decisions in the North Sea English Beam Trawl Fleet’, ICES Journal of Marine Science, Volume 71 (issue 2), pages 961-971, Available at (Accessed: 22/01/14).


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