Fish Dependence: highlighting the EU’s overfishing problem

April 11, 2013 // By: Roslyn Wood

Last week we released the 2013 update of our Fish Dependence report. This is our third update of the report, initially released in 2010, which looks at the reliance of the EU on fish from elsewhere.

In the report we determine the day in the year when the EU runs out of its own fish – that is, fish caught within EU waters, including aquaculture production – and starts relying on fish caught outside the EU or through imports to meet its consumption needs.  

In 2013 Fish Dependence Day for the EU is July 8, two days later than in 2012 and the same date as for 2006. While news that our dependency hasn’t significantly worsened is positive, the fact remains that the EU is still dependent on non-EU fish to support 48% of its fish consumption.

Germany is the one of the first major EU countries to enter ‘fish dependence’ this year. As of yesterday (April 7) it has effectively eaten its last fish of the year and, henceforth, will be eating other countries’ fish. Over the coming weeks several more of the EU’s countries will also become fish dependent.

The EU has some of the largest and richest fishing grounds in the world, yet around two thirds of its stocks are overfished. It is a worrying situation, yet also one that is entirely solvable. If remedied, we would see significant benefits to society in terms of food, revenue and jobs.

In our Jobs Lost at Sea report, we estimated that restoring 43 overfished European stocks to a biomass that supports their maximum sustainable yield would deliver:

  • 3.5 million tonnes more fish landed each year (enough to meet the annual fish demand of almost 160 million EU citizens)
  • An additional €3.2 billion revenues generated each year from these extra landings, of which €1.8 billion would go to EU27 countries
  • 100,000 new jobs created, of which 83,000 would be in the EU27. This would allow the EU fishing sector to sustain 31 per cent more jobs

Recently the European Parliament voted to end overfishing, with reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) ensuring that clear targets are set for the recovering of EU fish stocks. MEPs also voted to reward fisherman who fish in more environmentally and socially sustainable ways, and rejected amendments that would weaken the discard ban.

The European Parliament must now negotiate with the Council of Ministers to turn this vote in law. In coming months EU fisheries ministers have a unique opportunity to set clear fish stock restoration targets that will help to restore our marine ecosystems and allow us to reduce our dependence on fish from elsewhere.

To find out more about nef’s Paint a Fish campaign, please visit:




Fish Dependence: highlighting the EU’s overfishing problem

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