EU to discuss fishing agreements with developing nations

Press release - May 12, 2011
Brussels, 12 May 2010 – Fisheries ministers from around the world and senior European officials will meet in Brussels tomorrow to discuss the future of fishing agreements between the EU and foreign countries. Almost a quarter of all the fish taken by the European fishing fleet is caught outside EU waters. This number is set to increase as European fish stocks decline further because of overfishing.

Fishing in foreign waters by the EU fishing fleet frequently takes place off the coast of developing countries. The EU fleet causes significant environmental damage and threatens the livelihoods of local fishing communities.

European taxpayers contribute €158 million every year (half a million euros a year for every ship) to secure access to foreign fishing grounds for some of the world’s most destructive fishing trawlers [1].

Three weeks ago, a delegation of African fishermen met EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki to explain the challenges they and their families are facing. The meeting is part of a Greenpeace campaign giving African fishermen a voice to speak out against the abuses of overfishing to politicians who will play a part in the reform of EU fishing rules over the next three years.

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “The reform of European fisheries rules will have a major impact on the health of our oceans, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean and from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. It will also have an effect on the future of fishing communities across the world. Fisheries ministers must recognise that overfishing cannot continue and that sustainability needs to be at the centre of fishing agreements before it is too late.”

Harouna Ismael Lebaye, a coastal fisherman in Mauritania, said: “The current fishing system is truly irrational. I would like to ask Europeans to help us by no longer sending bottom trawlers and in particular boats that harm our ecosystem. I have been a fisherman for 21 years, and I’m scared that I’m going to have to stop.”


According to EU data, the EU catches about 1.2 million tonnes of fish per year abroad, in international waters and the waters of foreign countries. Of this, on average just over 400,000 tonnes a year are fished in the waters of other countries, in particular off the coast of West Africa. While the total amount caught off West Africa is unknown, at least 235,000 tonnes are caught in the waters of Morocco (including the occupied territory of Western Sahara) and Mauritania [2].


Photo and video

Video b-roll of African fishermen in Brussels
Photos of African fishermen meeting Commissioner Damanaki
Photos of fishermen in Africa - search West African fisheries on this photo library.
Campaign video of fishermen in Africa

Notes to editors

[1] Leaked Commission analysis on the performance of the CFP
[2] For catch figures for the EU’s external fleet: study commissioned by the European Commission in 2008
For figures on catches under third country agreements: leaked Commission analysis on the performance of the CFP

Useful links
Media briefing: Stolen fish - the impact of EU fisheries outside Europe
Report: How Africa is feeding Europe - EU (over)fishing in West Africa
Blog: African Voices Tour

Saskia Richartz – Greenpeace EU oceans policy director: +32 (0)495 290028,
Jack Hunter – Greenpeace EU communications officer: +32 (0)476 988584,