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Turning the tide for Europe's fish stocks

Fishing in stormy seas © Corey Arnold and OCEAN2012













The journey

After the publication of its green paper in 2009, the European Commission issued an ambitious proposal in July 2011 to reform the Common Fisheries Policy in order to make fishing sustainable—environmentally, economically and socially. This was followed by almost three years of intense activities by the coalition members.


OCEAN2012 activities in member states raised people’s awareness of overfishing and CFP reform and encouraged them to support decision-makers in making tough decisions. From 2010 until 2012, many groups and individuals took part in the European Fish Week activities sending a clear message to decision-makers to, “end overfishing or fishing will be over".



In addition to member activities, OCEAN2012 supported the CFP process and decision-makers more directly with the preparation of numerous briefings and activities. On October 19th 2011, the Size Matters Quality Counts declaration was presented in the European Parliament. This was followed up by several meetings between members of the Parliament, civil society groups and representatives representing small-scale fishermen.


On the legislative side, the European Parliament voted 502-137 in favour of the related report in February 2013, supporting the implementation of sustainable fishing practices. After more than four years of deliberations by and between the European institutions, Simon Coveney, representing EU fisheries ministers, and Ulrike Rodust, responsible for the file at the European Parliament, agreed on May 30th to proceed with a reform that would:

  • Rebuild fish stocks,
  • Set a legally binding target to end overfishing,
  • Reduce bycatch and discarding,
  • Use transparent access criteria, including social and environmental, when allocating fishing quota.


Through its work, OCEAN2012 also secured a clear link in the CFP to the goals of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive and defeated a proposal for compulsory transferable fishing concession.


Late October 2013, members of the European Parliament, MEPs, voted on the future EU fisheries subsidies regime, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, EMFF, which will be used to implement the new CFP for the period 2014-2020. Consistent with the February vote, MEPs supported a significant shift of additional funds into data collection, control and enforcement, and strengthened provisions to withhold funding in case of non-compliance with the rules of the CFP by member states. However, they unfortunately also voted in favour of subsidies for engine replacements and other measures known to facilitate overfishing.



Ulrike Rodust and Alain Cadec,

Members of the European Parliament


In December 2013, the European Parliament formally gave its final green light for the new Common Fisheries Policy. The new regulation has been applied throughout European Union waters and to the EU fleet globally as of January 1st 2014. It includes a commitment to restore fish stocks and to end EU overfishing by 2015 where possible and 2020 by the latest. This decision followed four years of negotiations between the European institutions and concerted campaigning by a diverse group of stakeholders.


And in January 2014, a political agreement was finally reached between the European Parliament and the Fisheries Council on the future EU fisheries subsidies, after the negotiations broke down in December. Public aid will help improve data collection, control and enforcement. It will also strengthen provisions to allow funding to be withheld from individual recipients and member states that fail to comply with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy.





OCEAN2012, which has been campaigning on these issues for years, congratulates EU fisheries ministers, the European Parliament, and the European Commission for achieving an agreement that finally secures a legally binding target to end EU overfishing, and thanks the many groups and individuals who worked for such an outcome.


Find out more

Visit our publications archive section for all reports and briefings available in several languages.


What’s next?

To find the 193 organisations that made up OCEAN2012 and continue to advocate for sustainable fisheries, go to Members.


To find out more about The Pew Charitable Trusts’ new campaign on CFP implementation in the waters of northwestern Europe, click here.