The Blue Economy: Facts about the fishing industry in Europe

1st June 2016

Some quick facts about fishing in the EU

Fishing in the European Union provides 5.4 million jobs (2.2% of the total labour force) and represents 3.2% of the GDP generating almost €500 billion a year. The retail value of the fishing markets can be much higher and in one year alone the entire EU catch was valued at €7,046,200,000! Should you be so inclined, that would be enough to buy AC Milan, Bayern Munich, Chelsea, Paris St Germain, Ajax and Real Madrid!

Not only is the blue economy a vital part of the EU’s financial stability but is also an essential part of the union’s food supply chain.

With a fleet of 87,445 vessels the scale of employment is vast and in some coastal communities can reflect almost a half of local jobs. This is split into two main areas, supply and processing with 116,094 fishermen and 115,651 employed as processors.

One of the best controlled and monitored fleets in the world the number of fishing boats in service is 29 times greater than the combined number of vessels in the entire world’s Naval fleet.

With such huge quantities of boats working at sea it is little wonder that the average annual catch across the EU numbers almost 5 million tonnes; the equivalent in weight of 2.5 million London taxi cabs or enough to provide 48 billion meals! That would feed everyone in the EU 96 times! With nutritionists recommending two portions of fish per week (including one from an oily source) the demand for fish is always high.

This mammoth catch is a result of a combination of large-scale commercial vessels and small, independent fishing boats, all operating interdependently to guarantee it’s member states with supply continuity.

It is the diversity of the EU’s fishing fleet which supports the operational sustainability of the union’s ports which rely on a steady supply of landings to remain commercially viable. Larger vessels are able to target species and stocks which are not accessible to smaller vessels plus the range of fishing gear used by each boat ensures that a wide variety of fish are caught.

It is this variety which is a driving factor of growth in the blue economy and the fleet must meet consumer demand for fish, the most popular species (in descending order) being Tuna, Cod, Salmon, Pollack, Herring, Mussel, Hake and Mackerel.

Despite the huge numbers of fish being caught annually the EU’s measure of sustainability the number of stocks at ‘Maximum Sustainable Yield’ has increased from 2 in 2003 to 36 in 2015 and the number of stocks being fished within safe biological limits rising from 12 to 21 in the same period. This is a result of how seriously the industry takes the issues of responsible fishing, working with governments and scientists to ensure stocks are fished at sustainable levels.

As a results stocks in the North East Atlantic have been recovering dramatically with a 50% decrease in pressure across all stocks in this zone.


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