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Sustainable Fisheries

In 2020, the EU fishing fleet numbered 73 716 vessels with a combined gross tonnage of 1.30 million and engine power of 5.26 million kW. Based on data submitted by Member States under the EU MAP, there were 56 111 active vessels in 2020 offering direct employment to 124 636 fishers, corresponding to 82 272 FTEs; on average earning EUR 25 654 in wages, annually.

The EU fleet spent 5.3 million days-at-sea and consumed 1.9 billion litres of fuel to land 3.9 million tonnes of seafood with a reported value of EUR 5.8 billion.

Results indicate that the profitability of the EU fleet fell in 2020. The Gross Value Added (GVA) and gross profit (all excl. subsidies and fishing rights) were estimated at EUR 3.3 billion and EUR 1.16 billion, respectively. GVA as a proportion of revenue was estimated at 55% and gross profit margin at almost 20%. With a total net profit of almost EUR 0.4 billion in 2020, 7.2% of the revenue was retained as profit. Lower value of landings are the main reason for this reduction even in a situation of a sharp decrease of energy prices. 2020 is a continuation of the decreasing trend observed in 2019, with the added impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, with several short sized value chains closed in several months of the year 2020.

Nowcast estimates indicate that the performance of the fleet will deteriorate in 2021 and 2022. Overall, the nowcast estimates indicate a decrease of 3.7% in landed value in 2021 compared to 2020, although prices increased 8%. Energy cost increased almost a 40% which at the end drives to a reduction of 30% and 46% in the overall gross and net profit. However, still the projection for 2021 shows that the EU fishing fleet will remain profitable in gross and net terms.

For 2022 it is expected a further deterioration of the economic performance, due, mainly, to the effects brought on by Ukraine-Russia conflict, in particular with high fuel costs and inflation rates.

The socio-demographic analysis shows that more than 96% of the fishers are males. Age class ‘40-64’ represents 59% of the workers in the EU fishing fleet. The percentage of people between 40 and 64 years was very similar for SSCF and LSF – 61% and 60%, respectively. The large majority of employees were nationals for fleet categories. The proportion of nationals was in the SSCF (97%) and the LSF (78%).

Although the fishing sector may be very small in terms of its overall economic weight in the EU economy, its regional and local importance can be very significant. The fisheries sector is central to several European coastal regions, where fishing and associated sectors are a mainstay of the economy and in the generation of direct and indirect jobs. For example, the fishing sector in Galicia (Spain), the Ionian Islands and Aegean Sea (Greece) represents more than 2% of the GDP and for Peloponnesus (Greece), Algarve and Azores (Portugal) it falls between 1 and 2% of total GDP. This significance further increases when dependency on the fisheries sector is looked at the coastal community level.


Further reads:

  • latest Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet [here]
  • more detailed and specific numbers, please access the data dissemination [here]