Baltic Sea

Closing up to 70% of Europe’s seas to bottom trawling: small losses for the fishing sector but big environmental gains


The Commission has adopted the communication “For more sustainable fisheries in the EU: state of play and orientations for 2022”. In line with the objectives of the European Green Deal, EU fisheries are moving towards a more sustainable one, supporting the transition to a healthy and environmentally friendly EU food system and supporting sustainable sources of income for EU fishermen, the communication shows. The socio-economic performance of the sector remains good despite the coronavirus crisis, thanks in part to the rapid support from the Commission.

The communication calls for further efforts to protect marine resources, both by maintaining high ambitions within the EU and by trying to achieve the same high standards when working with third countries. Member states, advisory boards, the fishing industry, non-governmental organizations and interested citizens are invited to participate in an a public consultation and give their views on the fishing opportunities for 2022.

Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginijus SinkeviÄius said: “EU fisheries remain on the path to making the sea even more sustainable. And while the pandemic has hit our fishing communities hard, it has been confirmed that environmental sustainability is key to economic resilience. The situation in some sea basins requires our special attention, but more needs to be done in all of our sea basins to achieve the blue of the green deal. I’m counting on everyone to play their full role. “

The 2021 communication shows that, particularly in the north-east Atlantic, the sustainability of stocks, which are managed according to the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY), has almost been reached – the maximum amount of fish that fishermen can take out of the sea without increasing regeneration and future endanger the productivity of the warehouse.

Healthy stocks continued to add to the socioeconomic performance of the sector, which has remained profitable despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fishing has been hit hard by the sanitation crisis and the value of fish landed is estimated to have decreased by 17% in the last year compared to 2019. The rapid support that the Commission has given the sector, in particular through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund’s € 136 million allocation, has helped to combat the effects of the pandemic quickly.

However, further efforts must be made to ensure healthy fish stocks for future generations. In the Atlantic and Baltic Seas, the Commission will propose for the next year to maintain or reduce fishing mortality in line with the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) for MSY-assessed stocks and to fully implement management plans to establish MSY mortality margins. In the Mediterranean and Black Seas, the exploitation rates are still twice as high as the sustainable level, despite a slight improvement. Strong efforts are therefore being made to further implement the multiannual plan for the Western Mediterranean and the measures adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean. Further improvements in the Adriatic will play a prominent role in fishing opportunities in 2022.

Member States must also step up enforcement and control of compliance with the landing obligation, in particular through the use of suitable modern control tools such as remote electronic monitoring systems, which are the most effective and cost-effective means of monitoring the landing obligations at sea. The Commission will continue to work with the European Parliament and the Council to reach an agreement on the revised fisheries control system, which can facilitate the use of these instruments. It also encourages fishermen to use more innovative and selective gear. The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) can help fund such investments.

In its relations with third countries, the Commission will seek a high level of approximation of fishing opportunities and related measures with high sustainability standards. This will be essential to ensure the sustainable use of resources and to level the playing field for EU industry given the strong interdependencies between the fleets in the waters concerned. As regards the stocks shared with the UK, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) provides a solid basis for the sustainable management of common fish stocks, both through the annual consultations on fishing opportunities and through the Special Committee on Fisheries.


Every year the Commission publishes a communication outlining the progress made on the state of fish stocks and launching a wide-ranging public consultation on the setting of annual fishing opportunities for the following year. This communication assesses progress in sustainable fisheries in the EU and reviews the balance between fishing capacity and opportunities, the socio-economic performance of the sector and the implementation of the landing obligation. It also contains the justification for the proposal on fishing opportunities for the following year.

Next Steps

Following the consultation, the Commission will present its proposals for fishing opportunities regulations for 2022 in the Atlantic, North and Baltic Seas, and Mediterranean and Black Seas in autumn. The proposals take into account the multiannual plans and are based on scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and other independent bodies, as well as the economic analysis of the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF).

The proposals will also contain adjustments resulting from the implementation of the landing obligation. Finally, the Council of Fisheries Ministers of the European Union will discuss the Commission’s proposals and determine the allocation of fishing opportunities.

More information

Communication “Towards More Sustainable Fisheries in the EU: State of Play and Guidelines for 2022”

questions and answers

Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)