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You are here: Home / Data and maps / Indicators / Fishing fleet capacity / Fishing fleet capacity (CSI 034) - Assessment published Sep 2011

Fishing fleet capacity (CSI 034) - Assessment published Sep 2011

Generic metadata

Topics:

Fisheries Fisheries (Primary topic)

Coasts and seas Coasts and seas

Tags:
fisheries | soer2010 | csi
DPSIR: Pressure
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
Indicator codes
  • CSI 034
Dynamic
Temporal coverage:
1998-2008
 
Contents
 

Key policy question: Is the size and capacity of the European fishing fleet being reduced?

Key messages

The overall size and capacity (power and tonnage) of the European fishing fleets continues to follow a downward trend in all countries groups – EU15, EFTA, EU7, and Bulgaria and Romania. There are still however important issues concerning data availability and quality that need to be overcome to allow for a more robust assessment, especially for the Member States who have most recently joined the EU.

The average size of vessels seems to be increasing in EU15 and EFTA, whereas in EU7 and in Bulgaria and Romania there seems to be a downward trend.

The increase in the average size of vessels in the main European fishing fleets, i.e. EU15 and EFTA, possibly indicates a shift towards trawlers and purse seines, which are usually larger than vessels using passive gear and hence exert a greater fishing pressure. Also, other parameters such as technological developments, type of fishing gear and level of activity should be included in the analysis of fleet capacity to more accurately assess the effective fishing capacity of the European fishing fleet.

 

Changes in European fishing fleet capacity

Note: The figure shows changes in fishing fleet capacity and size between 1998 and 2008 in EU15 and EFTA countries. Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU15 - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom; EFTA - Iceland, Norway.

Data source:
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Change in fishing fleet capacity and size

Note: The figure shows changes in fishing fleet capacity and size between 2004 and 2008 for EU7 and 2007 and 2008 for Bulgaria and Romania. Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU7 - Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia; and Bulgaria and Romania.

Data source:
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Changes in power of the European fishing fleet

Note: The figure shows changes in the power of the European fishing fleet. Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU15 - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom; EFTA: Iceland, Norway; EU7 - Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia; and Bulgaria and Romania

Data source:
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Changes in tonnage of the European fishing fleet

Note: The figure shows changes in the tonnage of the European fishing fleet. Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU15 - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom; EFTA - Iceland, Norway; EU7 - Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia; and Bulgaria and Romania.

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Changes in number of vessels of the European fishing fleet

Note: The figure shows the changes in the number of vessels of the European fishing fleet. Countries have been grouped into the following categories: EU15 - Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Spain, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Austria, Portugal, Finland, Sweden, United Kingdom; EFTA - Iceland, Norway; EU7 - Estonia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Latvia, Malta, Poland and Slovenia; and Bulgaria and Romania

Data source:
Downloads and more info

Key assessment

Key assessment – is fishing fleet capacity being reduced?

Between 1998 and 2008, EU15 reduced its power by 20%, its tonnage by 16% and its numbers of vessels by 24% (Figure 1). In the same period, EFTA fleet slightly decreased its power (1%) and tonnage (6%), but more significantly its number of vessels (45%). In spite of data availability and quality issues, trends in EU7 and Bulgaria and Romania also show reductions (Figure 2). In EU7, from 2004 to 2008, power and tonnage were reduced by 25% and number of vessels by 3%, and in Bulgaria and Romania, from 2007 to 2008, there was a 2% decrease in power, 6% in tonnage, but no significant changes in relation to number of vessels.

If, however, average size of vessels (calculated as vessel tonnage divided by numer of vessels) is considered, it has increased in EU15 and EFTA by 10% and 71% respectively, while it decreased by 20% in EU7 and by 6% in Bulgaria and Romania (Figure 1 and 2).

 

Specific assessment of the various components of fishing fleet capacity:

The changes in these parameters were evaluated over the period 1998-2008 for EU15 and EFTA countries, 2004 -2008 for EU7 and 2007- 2008 for Bulgaria and Romania, due to data availability and to allow for comparisons to be made.


Power

The power of the EU-15 fleet capacity has gradually decreased (20%), whereas the power of the EFTA fleet has only decreased slightly (~1%) (Figure 3). EU7’s fleet power has remained stable, while there is a slight decrease in Bulgaria and Romania as well (~2%). In 2008, the total power of the fishing fleet amounted to 6.4 GW in the EU-15, 1.7 GW in EFTA countries, 0.4 GW in EU-7 countries and 0.08 GW in Bulgaria and Romania.

Tonnage

The EU-15 fleet was gradually reduced in tonnage by approximately 16% and  the EFTA fleet experienced a 6 % decrease (Figure 4). The fleets of EU-7 faced an important decrease of 25% and those of Bulgaria and Romania one of 6%. The fishing fleet tonnage consisted in 2008 of 1.7 million  tonnes in the EU-15,  0.52 million  tonnes in the EFTA countries, 0.16 million tonnes in the EU-7 countries, and 0.01 million tonnes in Bulgaria and Romania.

Number of vessels

Both EU-15 and EFTA fleets have gradually reduced their numbers of vessels (24% and 45 %) (Figure 5). The fleet of EU-7 has decreased by 20% , while in Bulgaria and Romania there were no significant changes in relation to number of vessels. In 2008 there were 77 934 fishing vessels in the EU-15, 8323 in the EFTA countries, 5363 in the EU-7 countries, and 3290 in Bulgaria and Romania.

 

Has fishing pressure of the European fishing fleet been reduced?

This key assessment shows that, overall, the European fishing fleets have been significantly reduced in size, power and tonnage over the past years. Since these parameters are considered as the main measure to assess fishing fleet capacity, this could thus translate into a lesser pressure on the various fish stocks. However, power, tonnage and number of vessels are not a direct measure of the fishing capacity and thus also not a measure of potential fishing pressure of the fleet. There are several additional factors that should be considered to assess whether fishing pressure has been reduced:

 

·  The size of the vessels and their method of fishing. Larger vessels often use active fishing gears, like trawls and seine nets that are more effective than passive gears, like gill nets and long lines used by smaller vessels. Consequently, the increase in average size of vessels in the main European fishing countries fleets (EU15 and EFTA), may indicate increased fishing pressure, in spite of the observed reductions in power, tonnage and number of vessels.

 

·  The level of fishing activity.  How many vessels in the fleet are operating and for how many days at sea should be factored into parameters for measuring fishing fleet capacity to get a better estimate of the actual fishing effort.

 

·  Technological developments. The reductions in power, tonnage and fleet size have to be evaluated in relation to these developments, namely to the issues around the so called “technological creep”. Technological creep describes the fact that fishing vessels have become more efficient over time, which has allowed for bigger catches with lesser effort. This means that, in essence, a fishing fleet of constant capacity (in power, tonnage and number of vessels) can increase its “effective” capacity throughout the years and be able to catch more with the same fishing effort (i.e. the amount of time and fishing capacity used to harvest fish). 

Despite the term given, the developments in technology are usually not a continuous process, but are likely to happen in a jump manner, e.g. caused by introduction of new technology. However, for practical reasons the measurement of this technological creep is given as a yearly percentage and several studies suggest values around 3% yearly increases (Rijnsdorp et al., 2006; EC, 2008). The relevant question is thus if the observed decrease in the European fishing fleets capacity is sufficient to compensate for the technological development in efficiency.

Based on an assumed yearly technological creep of 3%, the necessary decrease in capacity that would enable keeping the effective capacity at a constant level would lie around 19.5%. Based on the observed decrease in fishing fleet capacity (Figure 1) and assuming no other reductions in effort are taking place (e.g. number of days at sea), it is evident that the reduction in capacity in most countries is not even able to compensate for the assumed technological development. Consequently, it is therefore very likely that the “effective” capacity and fishing pressure of the European fishing fleets have actually increased in several countries, especially among EU15 and EFTA countries.

 


References:

European Commission (EC) (2008). Commission Working Document. Reflections on further reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. 9pp.

Rijnsdorp, A. D., Daan, N., and Dekker, W. (2006). Partial fishing mortality per fishing trip: a useful indicator of effective fishing effort in mixed demersal fisheries, ICES J. of Mar. Sci. 63: 556-566.

Lutchman, I., des Clers, S., Van den Bossche, K. (2009). Overcapacity – What overcapacity? An evaluation of member states reporting on efforts to achieve a sustainable balance between capacity and fishing opportunities in 2007. Institute for European Environmental Policy. 38 pp.

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Constança De Carvalho Belchior

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