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«Europe and the Tragedy of the Commons: A detailed analysis of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) euryopa Institut européen de ...»

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Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 57 The whole fishery sector offered 42 788 job opportunities in 1996 of which alone 18 706 are registered is the catching sector129. With 19 920 jobs (female representation lies with 46%) in the processing sector, the UK is the biggest potential employer in this sector in the European Union130. The UK owns the largest processing industry within the EU, situated mainly in Wales and Scotland. Aquaculture puts the main stress on the production of salmon in West Scotland and the Shetland islands131. Additional species in which British aquaculture has specialised are the blue mussel, rainbow trout, cupped oysters and flat oysters. Fish farm activities play an important economic role in UK fishery production; 44.8% of the total fishery production derives from aquaculture. The 2001 return of aquaculture has a value of € 572 461 million and is therefore the highest return of every EU 15 MS132. It is interesting to note that although Spain has a bigger aquaculture production than the UK (Spain: 312 647 tonnes, UK: 170 516 tonnes), the economic value of UK aquaculture production is higher than the Spanish. This probably results from the fact that the UK is the largest salmon producer inside the EU. The sector has an employment figure of 4 110 employees133.

The EU’s fishing fleet

The EU 15 had a total fleet capacity of 90 595 vessels with 1 963 537 tonnage and 7 201 816kW in 2002. Since 1998 the amount of vessels, tonnage and engine power have been reduced by 8.7%, 1.8% and approx. 10% respectively; however the number of vessels must still be subject to reduction in order alleviate pressure on 129 Ibid.,pp. 11,13.

130 Ibid., p. 13.

131 EUROPÄISCHE KOMMISSION, "Die Fischereiwirtschaft in den einzelnen Mitgliedstaaten", op. cit., p. 70.

132 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "Total Aquaculture

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depleted fish stocks and give them an opportunity for reproduction.

Although vessel scrapping seems to be successful new innovations and technological developments in the last decades should not be forgotten134.

The technological advances experienced in the vessel industry in the last 50 years have had a dramatic impact on the fishing activity itself, fish resources and the environment135. Fishing has been simplified in the last decades; nets no longer have to be heaved on board by hand which used to be a feat of strength and a dangerous charge but small cranes installed on then deck have taken over this job. Vessels are nowadays equipped with sonar and solar radar systems capable of tracking down large shoals of fish. This new technology facilitates fishing and guarantees a lucrative catch as the boats will cast their nets in densely inhabited areas. Furthermore, homecomings to ports for unloading the daily catches has become unnecessary as trawlers have taken on factory-like dimensions. A few nations own these enormous floating factories, which prepare, process and store the fish on board, ready to sell them to the food industry when arriving in the home ports. The result of this process is time saving for the fishing industry as they can spend weeks on the sea without fearing that the fish might perish and thus increase their output.

This is all very positive for the fishing industry however on the other side of the coin Member States have never reduced their fleet which means that the same amount of vessels are shipping in Community waters equipped with modern technologies pursuing their activities only far more productive in their outcome. The overcapacity of the European Unions fishing fleet has put considerable pressure on existing fish stocks. The EU has tried to implement new policies and regulations for the reduction of the fleet through multi-annual guidance programs (MAGP’s) in order to create a better and sustainable balance between the fleet capacity and fish stocks136. According to the Commission the fleet has been 134 Please consult Diagram 4 and Table 2 below for precise numbers.

135 See also Chapter 2: The Tragedy of the Commons.

136 See also Chapter 4.3 on community subsidies concerning the fleet.

Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 59 successfully reduced by 10 000 vessels within 4 years and consisted of 90 000 vessels in 2002137. Moreover, it was not only the intention to reduce the fleet in numbers but also in tonnage and engine power which has to a certain degree been successfully accomplished as visible from the following graph. The graph demonstrates the steady decline of the vessel numbers, tonnage and engine power from 1995 to 2002.

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No. of Vessels Tonnage Fleet in kW Source: EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "The fishing fleet of the Member States in 2002", op.cit., p. 14.

Experts and environmentalist, especially Greenpeace and the WWF, feared that the vessels might increase their engine power and tonnage in order to compensate for the lost boats and their catch138. "Tonnage and power are one of the main factors in determining the fishing capacity of a fleet and thus also the pressure which is exerted on fish stock"139. Even though the Commission claims that the tonnage and kW has equally been successfully reduced, the following table presents very clearly that this is not the case in every country.

137 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "Catches of Member States as a share of total EU catches in 2001", op. cit., p. 14.

138 http://www.wwf.de 139 http://themes.eea.eu.int/Sectors_and_activities/fishery/indicators 60 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" Table 4: EU Fishing fleet details from 1998 and 2002

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When taking a closer look at the numbers we can observe that Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland and the Netherlands have not decreased their tonnage by the same time as reducing their number of vessels. Belgium, Ireland and Portugal have also increased their engine power instead of reducing it with the number of vessels. It appears to be vital that the EU should introduce strict fines and penalties for those who breach Community law and regulations. If every MS were to reduce their fleet but on the same time increase their tonnage and engine power, the result would not be the much expected relieve on fish stocks. The EU’s fishing activities need to be moderated in order to ensure a revival in fish stocks.

Additionally, preventive measures and recovery programs have to be launched; one possibility is the introduction of stricter fishing bans, for example in seasons when reproduction takes place or simply a two months ban on certain endangered species so that recovery is ensured. Greenpeace wants to extent the areas of fishing Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 61 ban to 40% mainly in costal regions. This is a very ambitious plan which will hardly come into force because many local fishermen depend on this region as their income source. Many fishermen would surly end up in economic hardship and bankruptcy. This procedure is used in Patagonia for example where during six months fishing activities for crabs are brought to a halt to guarantee their reproduction and hence a sustainable crab stock. It is a fact and common knowledge that less fish must be caught in overexploited areas and other means of production must be established.

Furthermore, the reduction and control of the fishing capacity and fishing effort is not the only area on which controls have to focus. Controls have to be extended on landings, net mesh sizes and whether bans on closed areas and seasons are really being respected. The latter is more easily controllable since January 2005 due to the obligatory GPS system on vessels measuring more than 15m140. After all, despite the few exceptional countries which have not complied with the EU regulations of reducing fishing activities, a very positive downward trend in the number of vessels, tonnage and engine power in EU Member States have been observed.


According to EU Commission research publications, landings in EU ports have been on a steady decline in the recent years mainly due to overexploitation of fish resources and the thereof resulting depletion of existing fish stocks141. Furthermore they state that "while the volume of European landings has decreased by about 3% since 2000, their value has increased by over 9% and consequently the average price of fishery products in the EU has increased from € 1.2/kg to € 1.39/kg over the same period"142. This is the result of 140 See chapter 7.2.

141 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "Volume and value of Landings in Member States (2002)", op.cit., p. 10.

142 Ibid.

62 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" scarce fish resources, hence overexploitation: the smaller the catches or more precise, as soon as a resource becomes very rare the prices rise instantly and turn the good into a luxury product. It is commonly known that rarities are luxury and luxury has its price.

Seventy years ago, herring and cod used to be meals for poor people because stocks were not yet in danger and they were cheap fish. Nowadays herring and cod stocks are close to extinction and the prices have risen sharply, it is no longer a poor person’s meal.

The country representing the highest landings and the highest return in 2002 was Spain with 962 823 tonnes and a value of € 1 813 million, which is not surprising considering that Spain possesses the biggest catching capacity in the EU143. This is by far the highest value represented, the nearest successors to that are Italy with € 946 000, France with € 835 000 and the UK with € 773 000.

In terms of landings, Denmark came second to Spain with 905 351 tonnes followed by the UK with 498 670 tonnes and the Netherlands with 478 159 tonnes of fish. Belgium has the lowest volume of landings with 19 874 tonnes with a value of € 72 000. It is interesting to note that the Member State with the biggest fleet capacity in numbers (Greece) only lands a volume of 96 035 tonnes which is an estimated € 258 000. Finland comes last in terms of value of landings with € 23 000144. The majority of landings in Denmark and Sweden are used for industrial purposes, i.e.

production of fish oil and fish flour. All other processing industries concentrate on fish processing for consumer consumption145. The total volume of landings in the EU 15 Member States amounted to 4 461 967 tonnes in 2002 which has a value of € 6 219 million. This means that slightly more than half of the EUs total fishery 143 Please note that the volume of landings include landed fishery products in all EU 15 Member States by all vessels, without distinction of their origin. Ibid.

144 Ibid.

145 EUROPÄISCHE KOMMISSION, "Die Fischwirtschaft in der EU",

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production (7 414 166 tonnes in 2001) is landed in EU ports and the other half in other harbours around the world146.

Employment rates and figures When speaking about employment in the fishery sector one generally tends to limit the consideration to fishermen, hence those who are directly involved in the catching sector. This is a fallacy as from the total 514 054 persons employed in the fishery sector in 1998, 251 685 were fishermen147. The catching sector might offer the majority of jobs; however it is not the only industry. The remainder operate in aquaculture, in processing sectors or ancillary industries such as marketing, distribution or shipbuilding. These branches of industry are often overlooked; however they do contribute a great share to the fishery sector. The following table lists the EU production and employment numbers by sectors of 1998, as well as the assumed share of female and male workers.

The net production should actually be rated slightly lower as parts of it are used for the fisheries industry itself, i.e. fish oil and fish flour production for fish feed in aquaculture148.

146 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "Volume and value of Landings in Member States (2002)", op. cit., p. 1.

147 "Einzelstaatliche Statistiken und Regional Socio-Economic Studies on

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The figures in Table 5 illustrate in a clear manner that female representation in the fishery sectors is still divided in a much stigmatised manner whereby the catching sector is predominantly male orientated. In some countries not a single woman works in the catching sector. Yet, in aquaculture and even more obviously in the processing sector female representation is higher. The latter has the highest participation of women, in some regions more than 50% of the entire workforce. Denmark and Spain have the maximum representation of female workers with 75% of the total workforce149. The processing sector offered 89 468 jobs in 1998 and is followed by aquaculture with 61 898 jobs. Freshwater fish 149 EUROPEAN COMMISSION, DG Fisheries, "Employment in the fishery sector by industry and gender (1997)", op. cit., p. 12.

Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 65 farming is much smaller with 9 521 employees. Marine aquaculture therefore constitutes 80% of the total aquaculture production.

Spain, Greece and Italy had the highest employment rates in 1997 with 68 275, 41 334 and 43 547 respectively. The principal aquaculture areas are in Greece and the UK, especially Scotland, where salmon and seabream/seabass are intensively bred. As already mentioned the UK has the highest production return in aquaculture, yet the employment rate only lies with 4 110 employees150. Freshwater fish farming employs 11 569 persons and is mainly situated in Germany (2 825), Austria (2 300) and Italy (2 142)151.

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