Sustainable Fisheries

Defending the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy

The CFP is the framework regulation for the management of EU fisheries, with the purpose of ensuring that fishing activities are environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable.



The EU’s framework for fisheries management, the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), has a strong potential to contribute to the sustainable exploitation of fish resources. However, despite some progress, the CFP lacks adequate implementation, control and enforcement, and some of the decisions and regulations adopted under its framework have effectively weakened its provisions. Oceana campaigns to defend the CFP’s objectives and to address the shortcomings in its implementation.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) was reformed in 2013 with a vision of transforming European fisheries and achieving sustainability for all fish populations. Its strengths are its legally binding objectives with clear timelines and its high level of ambition, in line with international commitments. Since the entry into force of this regulation, the CFP has improved the state of many fish populations and contributed to increasing the general profitability of EU fleets.

Among the different fisheries conservation and management measures introduced by the CFP, the progressive implementation of a ban on discards and the legally binding commitment to exploit all fish stocks in line with Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) rates by 2020 have contributed, albeit slowly, to the recovery of certain populations. However, the 2020 legal deadline to exploit all harvested species sustainably has been missed in all European basins, and much work remains to be done by the European Commission and the Member States to fully restore and maintain all populations of harvested species at healthy levels.

The main obstacle to successful implementation of the CFP is a lack of political will, ambition, and accountability on the part of EU Member States. When collectively taking decisions in the Council of the EU (in its Agricultural and Fisheries -AGRIFISH – configuration), Member States have perpetuated overfishing by repeatedly overshooting scientific advice in their annual decisions on fishing opportunities. They are also delaying implementation of the CFP, especially in the Mediterranean Sea where the status of stocks is the worst.

The CFP is a mission not yet accomplished. Oceana advocates for full implementation of the CFP, and for additional measures to address gaps in the policy framework – in particular regarding links between fishing and impacts on the climate and on marine biodiversity.