Original publication: April 2016
Author: Helga Josupeit
Short link to this post: http://bit.ly/2F4AB1r


Total world fish production was 169 million tonnes in 2015, with the EU only contributing 4%. Total EU production is declining year on year. With regard to world food fish supply, a very interesting feature is that aquaculture overtook capture fisheries production as the main supplier in 2014. World per capita apparent fish consumption doubled from an average of 9.9 kg in the 1960s to 20.1 kg in 2015, of which 10.6 kg comes from aquaculture and 9.5 kg from capture fisheries. The per capita consumption in the EU is slightly higher than the world average at 23 kg.


International trade in fisheries products is important, in fact fish is the most widely traded food commodity. Total trade value was estimated at USD 130 billion in 2015, a 10% decline from the 2014 value due to lower exchange rates in the EU and Japan versus the US dollar. The EU represents about 30% of world fish imports. About half of the world fish exports originate in developing countries.

The value chain of fisheries products is complex, going from producers through various middlemen to the retailer or restaurant. Fish brokers and fish processors play an important role in the value chain. Estimates indicate that the primary producer (SSF fisher) only receives 10% of the final sales price of his product. This margin is far higher than for other food products. The shortening of the value chain is an initial vehicle to improving the income of the SSF fishers, but also of getting a better product (probably at a better price) to the consumer.

The importance of the various fish species groups in EU fish consumption has changed significantly over the 50 years under review. Back in 1961, about half of the fish consumed in the EU were demersal species, while pelagic fish accounted for about one third of apparent consumption. All other species groups were around 5% or less. In 2011, things have changed significantly: the share of demersal fish in total consumption has declined to 32%, and pelagic fish to 22%, thus the former dominators of the market now represent roughly half of apparent fish consumption. Freshwater and diadromous species have grown from 5% in 1961 to 16% in 2011, and crustaceans from 3% to 10%. The increase of these latter two groups is closely linked to the emergence of aquaculture production. The emergence of aquaculture products in the EU market has had an important impact on SSF fishers, as they find it more difficult to find a market, as products from aquaculture generally provide a lower-priced alternative to products from fisheries.

Net imports into the EU of fishery products (that is imports minus exports converted to live weight equivalent) have increased sharply during the last fifty years. In 1961, net imports were 650 000 tonnes while they reached almost ten times this figure, or 6.2 million tonnes. Likewise the share of net imports in total fish supply to the EU went up from 10% in 1961 to over 50% in 2011. Considering that  not all the exports are coming from imports, it becomes evident that the dependence of the EU on imports for fish supply is even bigger.

There exists no statistical information on the distribution of fish consumption in the EU by processing type. When looking at the present distribution of fish species and forms of consumption in the EU, it becomes apparent that consumption of fresh or live seafood has increased. An estimated 60% of the total EU fish consumption is in fresh form. Some 20% of fish are consumed in canned  form, 5% as cured fish and only 15% in frozen form. Overall the share of fresh fish is increasing, while frozen fish is going down. The preference for fresh fish in the EU should open a door for SSF production, mainly supplying this segment of the market.

Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) play an important role in the EU’s fish production EU, but it is generally very difficult to quantify its role. SSF are of great importance to the European Union (EU) in terms of job opportunities and contribution to the economy of coastal communities. It has been estimated that SSF represents one quarter of the catch value. The number of persons employed in EU SSF has been declining in recent years. In the late nineties, the number was about 200 000 people, while at present this figure is down to 120 000. However, the decline seems to have levelled off, and the numbers have been just about stable for some years now. SSF represent about two thirds of all people employed in capture fisheries in the EU.

SSF represent various advantages and challenges. The potential of promoting the image and the economic standing of SSF in the EU is great, but it needs a great deal of coordination between the main players, including the same SSF fishers. For anything to be successful and remain sustainable over time, needs to be market driven.

The revised Common Market Organisation (CMO) under the new Common Fisheries Policy is a great opportunity for SSF producers to better access the market and to compete successfully with imported products or with products from industrial fisheries. Various activities such as developing a statistical data bank for SSF in the EU, creation and maintenance of marketing associations, creation of specific market intelligence, creation of an SSF logo, criteria for SSF fishers to join, product labelling and promotion campaigns for SSF products could be carried out under the CMO umbrella. The main scope is to give the consumer the opportunity to buy a fresh, safe, and environmentally-friendly product and to guarantee a good income for the local SSF fishers.


The aim of this study is to analyse how the revised CMO can better inform consumers about the fishery product they are buying and how SSF could benefit from this consumer information drive.

The revised CMO under the new Common Fisheries Policy pays great attention to what happens on the markets after the fish is caught. Questions like the manner in which fisheries products are produced, labelled and sold requires, as usual, production adjustments, but they also have a great potential for improving food safety and consumer information, while fostering the development of regional product specialisations and commercialisation. The consultant was asked to identify the general context of fish consumption and trade in the EU. The study identifies areas on how the new CMO regulation can contribute to granting EU fisheries products more added value, at the origin, safer standards, and more and clearer information for consumers. Such contribution can be key to strengthening the promotion and presence of EU fisheries products on the markets, internal and external, and can also translate into increased work opportunities in the sector. Finally, the study should identify both opportunities and possible challenges offered by the new EU legal framework.

Firstly, the study gives an overview on fish species, production and consumption worldwide. In the second chapter, there is an identification of the different kinds of fisheries and aquaculture products that have market specificities in the EU for the purpose of the added value chain, and the role of promotion, labelling and consumer information. The third chapter gives an overview on the importance of Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) in the EU, and identifies this category as the main actor of local fish supply and potential beneficiary of dedicated promotional measures. The fourth chapter gives an overview on how the revised CMO under the new  Common Fisheries Policy could contribute to granting EU SSF products more value added in the local market, safer products and better consumer information, while the final chapter gives conclusions and recommendations.

Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/573_443

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