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The Common Fisheries Policy is a set of rules to manage the EU fishing fleets and conserve fish stocks.

First published:
6 March 2019
Last updated:

Designed to manage a common resource, it:

  • gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds
  • allows fishermen to compete fairly
  • enables day-to-day management of fisheries through licensing (e.g. fishing boats, quotas, etc)
  • offers national and industry engagement in a less centralised management approach


Stocks may be renewable, but they are finite. Some of these fishing stocks, however, are being over-fished. The Common Fisheries Policy is there to ensure that the European fishing industry:

  • is sustainable
  • does not threaten the fish population size and productivity over the long term

Although it is important to maximise catches, there must be limits. The Common Fisheries Policy adopts a cautious approach which:

  • recognises the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem
  • seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch
  • seeks to phase out the practice of discarding unwanted fish

We need to make sure that fishing practices do not harm the ability of fish populations to reproduce. So catch limits set between 2015 and 2020 must be sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term.

Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

The Common Fisheries Policy sits within a package of measures which include:        

These reforms include:

  • the pelagic landing obligation and the demersal landing obligation  (referred to as discard bans)
  • the need to achieve "Maximum Sustainable Yield" for all major fisheries by 2020
  • greater national and regional understanding and control of managing fleets and fishing opportunities