Two recent reports by the European Commission add further weight to calls for significant structural change within the EU fish catching sector and a far reaching reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The 2010 Annual Economic Report on the EU fishing fleet shows a reduction in economic performance of the EU fishing sector in recent years. The report lays out economic trends in the EU fisheries sector in the period 2002-2008. It notably shows that 2008 was the second consecutive year in which the profitability of the EU fleet declined.
A second report, on Member States’ fishing capacity, concludes that the size of the EU fishing fleet continues to decrease at a very slow pace, maintaining a situation of overcapacity in most of the fleet. To address these issues, the Commission is currently finalising its proposals for a thorough reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, in which sustainable solutions will be proposed to turn this situation around and ensure a viable economic future for the EU fisheries sector.
The 2010 Annual Economic Report suggests that lower incomes and higher fuel prices in 2008 impacted significantly on the profitability of the fishing sector. The amount of value added generated by the sector was Eur2.1 billion in 2008, a decrease of around 23% from 2007. Overall, fleet profits declined each year between 2006 and 2008. Although the EU fleet made an overall profit of Eur250 million in 2008 (around 6% of total income), analysis by fleet segment revealed that during the period 2002-2008, 30-40% of assessed segments made losses on average, meaning that these segments made insufficient returns on invested capital.
The data reveals that vessels operating with passive gears (such as longliners, purse seiners, netters, vessels using traps and pots) generally performed better than active gears (such as demersal trawlers, beam trawlers and vessels using polyvalent active gears), with certain gear types struggling to ensure profitability, such as demersal and beam trawlers. The causes of this low economic performance include poor evolution of fish stocks, impacts of fuel prices and fish prices, and the existence of overcapacity in parts of the EU fleet.
The Report on the Member States’ efforts during 2009 to achieve a sustainable balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities confirmed the existence of overcapacity. During 2009, the overall reduction in fleet capacity continued to be between 2% and 3% on average, as it was during previous years. However, with this rate of capacity reductions, which are at least partly compensated by technological progress, it will be difficult to eliminate overcapacity in the short term if no changes are made to the current policy.