fishing boat on rough ocean waters
Archived Project

Ending Overfishing in Northwestern Europe

Overfishing is a serious concern in the waters of northwestern Europe.

Although this issue is not unique to the region—experts estimate that $83 billion is lost worldwide annually to overfishing and could be recovered through stock restoration—it persisted for years in large part because of the European Union’s reluctance to set fishing limits in line with scientific advice.

In recent years, European ministers have brought fishing limits closer to the scientific advice on average, but they must still do more: Under the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), Member States were legally bound to end overfishing by 2020 to maintain sustainable fisheries.

Progress toward that goal has varied but generally proved too slow to meet the 2020 deadline. Pew’s work focused on bringing EU fisheries management in line with scientific advice to end overfishing and allow stocks to recover. By doing so, the EU can set a positive example for other governments and help ensure the future sustainability of fisheries in northwestern Europe and beyond.

Project Goals

To support effective implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy, we worked with decision-makers in the EU and the United Kingdom to advocate for:

  • Fishing limits to be set at sustainable levels that allow stocks to recover.
  • Long-term legislation that would achieve the objectives of the CFP in each region.
  • Implementation of the CFP’s bycatch reforms, including the EU’s Landing Obligation.
  • Clear and public reporting on progress toward these aims.
  • A post-Brexit joint EU-UK management framework to allow the recovery of fish populations to sustainable levels.
Birds above fishing catch
Birds above fishing catch
Report

Lessons From EU's Common Fisheries Policy

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Report

Under the European Union’s current Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), 2020 had been targeted as the year to achieve a major change in fisheries management: sustainable exploitation rates in place for all stocks. Despite progress, the EU did not meet this goal.

Article

EU Fisheries Management Not in Line With Scientific Advice

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Article

After decades of overfishing and ineffective fisheries policies, the European Parliament and the European Union’s then-28 Member State governments agreed in 2013 on far-reaching reforms to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The goal: to make fishing sustainable by setting objectives to restore stocks, maintain healthy ecosystems and safeguard stable, profitable fisheries for the EU fleet.

Article

10 Reasons Europe Must Act Promptly to End Overfishing

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Article

European Union fishing ministers and officials from other states bordering the Atlantic Ocean will meet this autumn to agree fishing quotas for stocks in the Atlantic and in the North Sea for next year.

Quiz

Test Your Knowledge on European Fisheries

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Quiz

From the North, Celtic and Irish seas to the Atlantic Ocean, Europe’s north-western waters harbour a rich array of life. Can you tell a hake from a herring, a sardine from a sole, or a cod from a Common Fisheries Policy? Test your fish knowledge with our quiz.

Our Work