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Fisheries

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There is a critical overcapacity in the European fishing fleet. Over-fishing can have serious consequences for the entire marine environment. Certain trawling techniques, for example, cause damage to the highly important seabed habitat. At the other end of the food chain, seabirds, seals, whales and other marine mammals will be left with nothing to eat.

The key question is whether Europe can avoid 'fishing out' its remaining stocks and instead develop an industry that is sustainable for both the environment and those making a living from it. This section looks at the reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy, which is designed to make that happen, and presents studies of fish stocks, fishing fleet activity, and potential alternatives, such as fish farming.

Fishing pressures in most of Europe's seas exceed sustainable levels and safe biological limits (SBL), and since 1985, there has been a general decline in fish catches. The capacity of European fishing fleets has also not been sufficiently reduced to be in balance with available fish resources. As a result, 30 % of Europe's commercial fish stocks are now fished beyond SBL, and in 2010, 70 % of commercial stocks were fished above maximum sustainable yield. Other pressures include: by-catch; the destruction of sea-floor habitats; and illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100