The European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the way the EU manages fisheries and aquaculture throughout the EU. At the beginning of the common market, the focus was on assuring that fishermen from member states had equal access to the waters of all member states.  When the right to fishing resources for each member state was extended from 12 to 200 miles from coastlines, and as technology drove industry to bigger and more efficient ships, the fishing rights became very valuable and very contentious.  The formal EU-wide CFP was initially adopted in 1983 and reformed in 2003.

Two key components of the CFP are Total Allowable Catches (TACs) which are fixed maximum quantities of fish that can be caught from a specific stock over a given period of time, and Species Quota, a limit on the number of any particular species of fish that can be caught.

The changes in the CFP over the years have been designed to insure a sustainable development of fishing activities and to balance the competing interests of environmental, economic and social groups. The CFP costs only 0.75% of the EU budget, a pale comparison with the 48% of the EU budget devoted to implementation of the Common Agricultural Policy.  However, fishing jobs tend to concentrate in remote regions of the EU and the CFP is one way of contributing to the development or viability of these regions.

In 2008, the EU Commission initiated a review of the CFP.  It seems far to say that nobody is very happy with how the CFP has evolved or is being implemented. By and large, commercial fishing businesses believe that the livelihood of its members are threatened by the CFP, and environmental organizations believe that the fishing resources of the planet are threatened by overfishing.  Everybody seems to agree that if fishing stocks are destroyed, everybody suffers.

The status of fishing resources within the EU has become critically at risk.  The present situation is that 30% of the stocks, for which information exists, are outside safe biological levels and 80% of EU stocks are fished above maximum sustainable yield. This compares to the global average of 25% stocks fished above maximum sustainable yield.

The EU published a Green Paper on the CFP and invited all stakeholders that have an interest in the CFP to make submissions offering criticisms and ways of developing a sustainable fishing industry that protects fishing resources for future generations.


See the “Articles” Section of irish environment for several article on overfishing and EU CFP.

Some further ideas to explore on Common Fisheries Policy (EU):

Have different people in a group assume the role of:  a representative of commercial fishing business; a recreational fisher person; an owner of a shop that sells fish; a national government agency staff person who has responsibility for setting national fishing rights policies; and a representative of an environmental organisation.

Let each person argue for a particular position on the EU Common Fisheries Policy, or one particular aspect of that Policy, based on the role they are playing;

Let everybody else play the role of a public organization that has to decide on what policy to adopt, and let them offer analysis and criticism of each argument;

Let everybody decide on what policy for the public organization to adopt.

Identify the interests in common between commercial fishing businesses and environmentalists.


EU Common Fisheries Policy 

“EU Factsheets”, a web-based resource and teaching aide on the European union by Civitas, The Institute for the Study of Civil Society.

EU Commission Working Document on Common Fisheries Policy

“Common Fisheries Policy”, Wikipedia,

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