Europe - 9 out of 10 fish stocks threatened

A cage full of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean. Overfishing has driven the magnificent species close to commercial extinction.


The European Union governs the largest maritime zone in the world and, shamefully, one of the most degraded on the planet. After four decades of EU fisheries policies, nine out of ten fish stocks are overfished. Current fisheries management fails to protect and preserve both marine biodiversity and the people who depend on it.

Despite its many reforms, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has failed to ensure environmentally and economically sustainable fisheries. This is largely the result of bad political decision-making that favours the short-term economic interests of the fishing industry over science-based governance and sustainability, problems highlighted in a reflection paper prepared for the European Commission.

The ongoing reform of the CFP presents the EU with a once-in-a-decade opportunity, and possibly a last chance, to reverse these trends. It must stop overfishing, recover the current poor state of fish populations to healthy levels and complete the establishment of national networks of marine reserves. 

Greenpeace calls on all EU governments to:

  • reduce their excessive fishing fleet capacity and end destructive and wasteful fishing practices;
  • increase the area that is protected as marine reserves to 40%;
  • make scientifically recommended catch levels a minimum requirement;
  • ensure transparency in decision-making and data-handling as well as traceability for seafood products.

Failing fisheries come at a high price. The World Bank recently calculated that failing fisheries management is costing the world around $50 billion annually and the UN Green Economy report warns that – under business as usual scenarios – the world’s fisheries will have been reduced to a third of their 1970’s levels by 2050. It therefore urges policy makers to accelerate investments in the restoration of ecosystems.

Without fish there can be no fishing. Many fishermen already operate at a loss and more than half the seafood on the European market has to be imported. The CFP reform may be our last chance to protect our seas so future generations can enjoy their benefits.

The latest updates


Taiwan faces EU sanction on fisheries

Press release | October 1, 2015 at 15:01

Taipei - Three weeks after Greenpeace Rainbow Warrior busted Taiwanese tuna longliner Shuen De Ching No.888 (順得慶888號) fishing illegally in the Pacific, the European Commission has yellow carded Taiwan for failing to fight illegal, unreported and...

Commission TTIP plan retains privileged corporate justice system

Press release | September 16, 2015 at 13:19

Brussels – The European Commission’s modified plan for an Investment Court System under an EU-US trade agreement (known as TTIP) continues to give foreign investors a privileged justice system to challenge EU standards on the environment, health...

EU fisheries ministers fail to end overfishing

Press release | December 16, 2014 at 23:13

Brussels – Commenting on the outcome of the fisheries Council today, Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “It is unacceptable that many of the fishing quotas agreed today fail to end overfishing. Ministers gave no...

EU ministers need to show some backbone and end overfishing

Press release | December 15, 2014 at 9:45

Brussels – Fisheries ministers from 28 European countries are meeting in Brussels today to agree 2015 fishing quotas for most stocks, including those in the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Black Sea. To remind European leaders of their...

Greenpeace exposes 20 European fishing vessels responsible for destructive fishing

Press release | November 4, 2014 at 9:53

Brussels/Amsterdam – Greenpeace exposed today 20 of the most destructive fishing vessels operating under European flags, ownership or management [1], two months ahead of a European Union (EU) deadline to end overfishing [2]. All 20 vessels have...

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