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Overfishing and employment in fisheries

Overfishing and employment in fisheries

© overcrew /Fotolia

What news about overfishing? According to the FAO report World review of fisheries and aquaculture 2012, “most of the stocks of the top ten species, which account in total for about 30 percent of the world marine capture fisheries production, are fully exploited and, therefore, have no potential for increases in production”. Unfortunately, this is not a recent observation.

Facing this problem of overfishing, the European Union has put in place measures to fish in a more sustainable way in previous years . However, these measures have had an impact on employment: between 1990 and 1997 employment in the fishing industry declined by 19% in the EU (from 313,000 to 252,000). The fall was the result of measures taken to conserve stocks and reduce the extent of overfishing by modernising the fishing fleet.

According to 2009 figures, the fisheries sector is still important for the EU, generating 139 023 jobs in 2009 (measured in full-time equivalents). Spain accounts for 26% of the total, followed by Italy (18%), Greece (17%), Portugal (13%) and France (9%). About 82% of employment in EU fisheries is concentrated in these countries.

In its resolution of 12 September 2012 (2011/2291(INI)), the EP stressed “the need for a balance between the ecological and the economic and social situation in each fishery while acknowledging that without plentiful fish stocks there will be no profitable fishing industry”.

This keysources gathers several sources on overfishing and employment in fisheries sector both at the international level and European level. The first part gives an overview and two studies are presented in the second one, the third part is dedicated to stakeholders’ views on these issues and some examples by countries are given in the fourth part. This file is completed by a statistical part and a little bibliography.


Too Few Fish: A regional assessment of the World’s fisheries / Oceana, 2008, 24 p.
This report provides a global perspective on the state of the world’s fisheries resources, followed by a region by region analysis. In particular, it focuses on the scope for further growth in fisheries (or the lack thereof) in the different regions of the world.

Impacts of fishery activities / FAO
This FAO page presents in a synthetic way the impact of fishery activities and in particular overfishing.

Overfishing and other threats to aquatic living resources / UNEP, 16 p.
Excessive fishing effort and the employment of destructive fishing practices are attributed to a complex web of root causes, including the common pool nature of fisheries resources, poverty, insufficient knowledge regarding the status of the fisheries, inappropriate subsidies, a lack of appropriate incentives and weak enforcement of fisheries regulations.

Identifying fisheries dependent communities in EU coastal areas / Marine Policy, November 2013, Volume 42, 17 p.
The importance of local communities relying on fisheries is constantly emphasised in the European Union’s Common Fishery Policy. Previous studies have analysed fishery employment for the entire EU based on statistical figures aggregated by administrative units at the regional or provincial level. This paper adopts a geographical approach to identify EU coastal communities relying on fisheries using accessibility analysis, principles at the basis of gravity models and disaggregated population and employment statistics. The dependency on fisheries is calculated comparing estimated employment from fisheries at each port with general employment in the areas of accessibility surrounding the port.

Regional social and economic impacts of change in fisheries-dependent communities / MRAG, Oceanic, Lamans, IFM, IEEP, Poseidon, March 2011, 47 p.
The main aims of the study were: • To review current statistical data and socio-economic indicators for EU fisheries regions. • To support the discussion about the future CFP, in particular as regards future financial support for the purpose of coastal development. In completing this the study team compiled existing statistical data and socio-economic indicators for 24 case study locations to provide a broad picture of economic and social impacts on local and regional coastal communities brought about by the fisheries sector, disaggregated into catching, processing, support services, and aquaculture sub-sectors.


Contribution of marine fisheries to worldwide employment / L. C. Teh and U. R. Sumaila, Fish and Fisheries, 2013, vol. 14, n° 1, 12 p.
Marine fisheries contribute to the global economy, from the catching of fish through to the provision of support services for the fishing industry. General lack of data and uncertainty about the level of employment in marine fisheries can lead to underestimation of fishing effort and hence over-exploited fisheries, or result in inaccurate projections of economic and societal costs and benefits. To address this gap, a database of marine fisheries employment for 144 coastal nations was compiled. Gaps in employment data that emerged were filled using a Monte Carlo approach to estimate the number of direct and indirect fisheries jobs.

How to make progress in disciplining overfishing subsidies / ICES journal of marine science : journal du conseil, 2012, vol. 70, n° 2, 7 p.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has been working for more than seven years now to discipline overfishing subsidies, as mandated by the global community, without success. I argue that this failure is partly because WTO negotiators aim for an all-inclusive deal, i.e. negotiations are conducted as a “single undertaking”, whereby results must be achieved in all areas. Negotiators are required to broker an all-inclusive deal for all maritime WTO member countries and for all fisheries, whether domestic or international; small or large scale; developing or developed country fisheries. It is argued here that this commitment to a “single undertaking” does not align the incentive to remove subsidies with national interests, and therefore needs to be changed by splitting the world’s fisheries into domestic and international fisheries. In this way, the battle for eliminating overfishing subsidies for some stocks would shift to home countries, and for others this would still rest with the international community. This split, it is argued, would align the incentives and improve the chances of eliminating overfishing subsidies.

Stakeholder views

Paying for overfishing – Why subsiding new vessel construction is bad news for EU taxpayers and our oceans / Carpenter, Griffin; Esteban, Aniol, The new economics foundation (NEF), 2013, 4 p. Available versions in FR, ES, IT, PL.
Consistent overfishing in European waters has led to smaller catches, lower revenues and fewer jobs than if our fish stocks were properly managed. Consumers across the EU now effectively pay three times for their fish: for the value of the landings, the societal costs of overfishing, and for the subsidies received by the fishing industry.

Overfishing strips tens of millions from Southeast Economy / The Pew Environment Group, 2012, 2 p.
An analysis commissioned by the Pew Environment Group reveals that historic overfishing resulted in the loss of tens of millions of dollars in recreational fishing expenditures annually from 2005 to 2009. Spending on recreational fishing in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico could have delivered millions of dollars more to these regions if fish populations had been at healthy levels. The study’s results provide a strong case for maintaining healthy ocean fish populations by continuing efforts to rebuild depleted species and end and prevent overfishing.

Jobs lost at sea – Overfishing and the jobs that never were / New Economics Foundation (NEF), 2012, 12 p.
Fish stocks deliver huge benefits to society. They are a source of jobs, a source of profits, and a source of affordable food. But European fish stocks are delivering much less than they could if they were managed at sustainable levels. For the good of society, restoring fish stocks from current levels to their maximum sustainable yield should be at the heart of European fisheries management. The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is an ideal opportunity to put an end to this waste.

EU Countries: Representativeness of the European social partner organisations: Sea fisheries, Eurofound, Comparative study, 2012, 44 p.
This study aims to provide the necessary information for reviewing social dialogue in the sea fisheries sector. The report identifies the national organisations on both sides of industry, and analyses the sector’s European organisations. Following a brief overview of the sector’s economic background, the study describes the social partner organisations in all of the EU Member States (with the exception of Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Luxembourg, and Slovakia) and then goes on to look at the relevant European organisations, focusing in particular on membership levels and capacity to negotiate.

How Africa is feeding Europe ? EU (over)fishing in West Africa / Greenpeace, 2010, 16 p.
The EU fishing fleets have a global reach. As a consequence, they are fishing in waters of some of the poorest nations on Earth, including those in West Africa. According to views expressed by local fishermen in Senegal and Mauritania, a consequence of foreign operations in West Africa local fishing communities sees their own catch diminish and sees the destruction of local marine resources at the hands of foreign operators, while the communities themselves reap few if any of the benefits.

Countries examples

Empleo a bordo – análisis del empleo en el sector pesquero español y su impacto socioeconómico / Greenpeace, In:, 2013, 106 p.
En este informe, Greenpeace advierte de que la capacidad pesquera de las embarcaciones que se dedican a la pesca artesanal se ha reducido un 34 % con respecto a 1995, mientras que la capacidad pesquera del total de la flota industrial (alimentada por las subvenciones) ha aumentado un 70 %, pero sin embargo ésta última no ha logrado frenar la caída del empleo. Este documento constituye la primera parte de un proyecto más amplio que pretende medir el impacto económico y social que tendría la adopción de un modelo pesquero sostenible en España.

Report Employment on board: Employment analysis and socio-economic impact of Spain’s present fisheries model / Greenpeace, May 2013, 11 p. (Summary in English of the report above).
The report On-board employment is the first part of a broader project, designed to examine the present economic and social conditions of the fishing industry and to examine the part played within it of small-scale, as opposed to industrial, fishing methods. This summary shows how the fishing industry has evolved over recent decades and the effects this evolution has had on employment. It also looks at the part small-scale methods play in sustaining fishing communities, and at the extent to which these methods are in danger.

Ending Overfishing and Rebuilding Fish Stocks in U.S. Federal Waters / Upton, Harold F.; Buck, Eugene H; , Congressional Research Service, 2012, 30 p.
Overfishing has been arrested in most U.S. fisheries and progress has been made in rebuilding many others. However, these improvements have sometimes come at a cost to commercial and recreational fishermen and associated fishing communities, and in some cases stocks have not responded to management actions as managers anticipated. Some fishermen, fishery managers, and academics have posed questions related to (1) the effects of ACLs on allocation of fisheries benefits; (2) the possible social and economic benefits of greater flexibility during stock rebuilding, (3) the accuracy of data and models used to determine ACLs and rebuilding objectives, and (4) the decision-making process, especially in situations with limited data and related uncertainty.

Studies for carrying out the Common Fisheries Policy: Lot 3 Socio-economic dimensions in EU fisheries/ MRAG, Poseidon, Oceanic, Irepa, Octobre 2013, 141 p.
This report presents the results from a study that has applied a common methodological framework in selected locations within four fisheries-dependent maritime regions of the EU: Galicia (Spain), Sicily (Italy), Brittany (France) and Shetland (UK). While these four regions are all fisheries-dependent, there is diversity in the nature of the fisheries in terms of the stocks fished, fleet characteristics and the historical and cultural context within which fishing activities are situated. This study is intended to make a contribution to understanding local processes of development and diversification and the role of fisheries in coastal communities through the collection of primary data at the local level. The study also examines where fisheries are located within the local economic setting, collecting information about the role and contribution of fisheries and their relation to other economic activities.


Facts and figures on the Common Fisheries Policy – Basic statistical data / European Commission, 2012, 48 p.
See the Employment on page 16.

OECD Review of Fisheries: Policies and Summary Statistics / OECD, 2013, 482 p.
OECD’s annual analytical report on the Fisheries industry in OECD countries. It describes major developments affecting fisheries in OECD countries, including changes in government policies, trade, and fisheries and aquaculture production. Summary statistics are included for each country.

OECD Review of Fisheries: Country Statistics 2013 / OECD, 2013, 450 p.
This publication contains statistics on fisheries from 2005 to 2012. Data provided concern fishing fleet capacity, employment in fisheries, fish landings, aquaculture production, recreational fisheries, government financial transfers, and imports and exports of fish.

Employment in fisheries: Table / in OECD Review of Fisheries: Country Statistics 2013.


Ageement between the Social Partners in the EU’s Sea-Fisheries Sector of 21 May 2012 concerning the implementation of the work in fishing convention, 2007, of the International Labour Organization / European Commission, DG EMPL, social dialogue, March 2012, 67 p.

Overfishing : what everyone needs to know / Hilborn, Ray, 1947- , Hilborn, Ulrike , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, EP Library – Brussels, S 56.36.04 HIL 12
Over the past twenty years considerable public attention has been focused on the decline of marine fisheries, the sustainability of world fish production, and the impacts of fishing on marine ecosystems. Many have voiced their concerns about marine conservation, as well as the sustainable and ethical consumption of fish. But are fisheries in danger of collapse? Will we soon need to find ways to replace this food system? Should we be worried that we could be fishing certain species to extinction? Can commercial fishing be carried out in a sustainable way? While overblown prognoses concerning the dire state of fisheries are plentiful, clear scientific explanations of the basic issues surrounding overfishing are less so – and there remains great confusion about the actual amount of overfishing and its ecological impact.

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