Commission report highlights failure by EU governments to tackle excessive fishing capacity

Press release - July 9, 2012
Brussels - Greenpeace urged EU fisheries ministers to put their houses in order, as a new report by the European Commission highlights the lack of effective action to recognise and tackle the excessive fishing capacity of EU fleets. The report comes as the EU is in the midst of a once-in-a-decade reform of its fisheries policy.

Panorama view of one of the world's biggest fishing trawlers, blockaded by Greenpeace activists for six days in Ijmuiden earlier this week. Super-trawlers like the 142-metre-long Lithuanian-flagged and Dutch-owned vessel can catch enormous quantities of fish, upsetting the balance of entire ecosystems.


The assessment illustrates significant weaknesses in efforts by European governments to assess and manage the power and size of their fishing fleets. Overcapacity is central to the decimation of fish stocks taking place in European waters and beyond. But only 2/3 of governments used agreed guidelines and indicators to assess their fishing capacity, according to the report. Evidence shows that capacity reductions are being made at a snail's pace of 2-3% per year and are outweighed by the speed of technological development, which increases the ability of vessels to catch fish by an estimated 4% per year.

Seven out of the 22 countries assessed by the Commission (Spain, Poland, the UK, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia) failed to declare whether their fleet capacity is in line with the availability and health of fish stocks, a crucial requirement to achieve sustainability. One country, the UK, failed to submit a report altogether.

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: "The Commission's report shows that efforts by European countries to tackle the problem of excessive fleet capacity are falling wide of the mark. Year on year, EU countries authorise their fishing vessels to catch fish without keeping a proper count of their overall impact on fish populations and the sea. It is pretty obvious why so many of Europe's fish stocks are overfished. Ministers must stop making such blunders and instead set tight rules and deadlines to bring their fleets to sustainable levels."

The Commission also highlights that very few governments have outlined how they plan to improve the fleet management system.

The Commission report is just one in a series [1] highlighting the role of the EU's bloated fleet in wiping out fish populations in Europe and many other parts of the world.

For more information on fleet overcapacity, go to

Notes for editors:
[1] The Commission's own assessments of EU fisheries policy state that it "is an important underlying problem that there is still considerable overcapacity of fishing power in relation to the fish resources available. The European fishing fleets can in many cases exert a fishing pressure on the stocks which is two to three times the sustainable level."( They also say that "the fishing pressure on 80% of European fish stocks is currently above sustainable targets" ( The EU's overcapacity problem has also been the focus of an investigation by the European Court of Auditors (

Saskia Richartz – Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director: +32 (0)495 290028,
Greenpeace EU press desk: +32 (0)2 2741911,

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