​​​The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

​The objective of the CFP is to lay down rules to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are sustainable in ecological, economical and social terms, and that they represent a source of healthy food for EU citizens. The goal is to promote a dynamic fishing industry, able to sustain a standard of living adequate for the fishing communities. Therefore, its aim is to ensure that the fishing practices guarantee at all times the maintaining of the resource.

The CFP aims at the same time to manage a common resource, fish stocks, giving all European fleets equal access to EU waters and allowing fishermen to compete fairly. This is so fish stocks can recover, but they are limited and in some cases are subject to overexploitation.

In this sense, the CFP adopts a cautious approach that recognizes the impact of human activities on all components of the marine ecosystem. Fishing fleets will have to apply more selective capture systems and the practice of discarding unwanted catches will be progressively abolished. The current policy requires the establishment for the period 2015-2020 of the catch limits acceptable to ensure the long-term conservation of fish stocks.

The CFP was introduced for the first time in the 70's and updated several times. The last recent reform dates back to the 1st January 2014.

The CFP is divided into four areas:

  • fisheries management;
  • international policy;
  • markets and trade policy;
  • financing fisheries policy.

The CFP also sets rules on:

  • participation of stakeholders;
  • aquaculture.

The Marine Fisheries Department of the Italian Coast Guard takes care of the maintenance of relations with the EU and international organizations in the field of CFP, preparing the related documentation, and, in particular:

  • cooperates, in accordance with the directives issued by the Minister, with offices directly under the Minister, as well as with the Department of European and international policy, to establish relations with the European Union, organizations, institutions and international organizations;
  • cooperates also with FAO providing technical support for the implementation of the program of responsible fishing with particular reference to the supervisory and control systems for the contrast of illegal fishing;
  • maintains, as part of its activity, the relationship with the Coast Guard Headquarters, in the role of National Fisheries Control Centre  (NFCC).

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Fisheries management

Fishermen exploit fish stocks, which typically have a high reproduction capability, but are not unlimited. If the fishing activity is not subject to proper management rules, there is a risk of running out of stocks or of the ability to sustain the economy of this activity. Therefore, it is in everyone's interest to:

  • safeguard the reproduction of fish stocks to ensure high returns over the long term;
  • lay the foundations for a profitable industry;
  • distribute fairly the fishing opportunities;
  • conserve marine resources.

The main purpose of fisheries management within the CFP is to achieve sustainable catch levels in the long term for all stocks by 2020 (the principle of maximum sustainable yield). Another aim of increasing importance is to minimize or avoid unwanted catches and harmful practices through the gradual introduction of the obligation to unload unmarketable species. The CFP reform has introduced new rules and a new management structure that places an emphasis on regionalization and a wider consultation of stakeholders.

The system described above includes:

  • rules on access to waters (to control which vessels have access to certain fishing areas);
  • controls on fishing effort (to limit fishing capacity and the use of fishing vessels);
  • technical measures (to control the use of fishing gear and fishing periods);
  • limits on the amount of fish caught in a given sector, in particular through the system of total allowable catches (TACs and quotas).

The Common Fisheries Policy is turning increasingly to long-term plans, which often involve a combination of different management instruments. Fisheries management is based on data, scientific advice and control measures to ensure that the rules are fairly applied and respected by all fishermen.


Regulation (EU) n. 1380/2013 dated 11th December 2013, relating to the common fisheries policy, amending Regulations (EC) n. 1954/2003 and n. 1224/2009, repealing Regulations (EC) n. 2371/2002 and n. 639/2004 and the Council's Decision n. 2004/585/EC.

International Politics

More than a quarter of the fish caught by EU vessels is actually caught outside EU waters. About 8% of the catch in Europe (2004-06) falls within the framework of fisheries agreements with non-EU countries, while a further 20% takes place on the high seas, especially in the regions covered by regional organizations for fishery management.

Being one of the major powers in the field of fisheries and the largest single market for fish products, the EU also plays an important role in improving the management of the sector through a number of international organizations. This implies the development and implementation of policies related to the management of fisheries and, in general, the Law of the Sea. The EU works closely with international partners through the United Nations, particularly the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and by other bodies, such as the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The EU is the largest fisheries single market in the world and a net importer of fish and fish products.

Every three years, the EU sets autonomous tariff quotas (ATQ) for certain species and products. The ATQ allows to import certain quantities in the EU at a reduced rate, usually 4% or 6% and serve to increase the availability of raw materials needed by the European processing industry when domestic supply is lacking.

Markets and Trade Policy

Since 1970 the common organization of the market, namely the EU's policy for the management of the market in fishery products and aquaculture, is a central element of the Common Fisheries Policy.

The common market organization was created to stabilize markets and ensure a fair income for producers. Over the years it has gradually evolved, placing more and more emphasis on sustainability. The rules and procedures have become simpler and the governance has improved since organizations in the fisheries sector and aquaculture have assumed greater responsibilities in the management of their activities.

The two main areas to which this system applies are:

  • the organization of the sector;
  • the marketing of fisheries and aquaculture.


REGULATION (EU) n. 1379/2013 dated 11th December 2013, on the common organization of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products, amending Regulations (EC) n. 1184/2006 and n. 1224/2009 and repealing Regulation (EC) n. 104/2000.

REGULATION (EU) n. 1418/2013 dated 17th December 2013, concerning the production and marketing plans in accordance with Regulation (EU) n. 1379/2013 on the common organization of the markets of fishery and aquaculture products.

COMMISSION RECOMMENDATION (EU) dated 3rd March 2014 on the establishment and implementation of production plans and marketing, according to Regulation (EU) n. 1379/2013 on common organization of the markets of fishery and aquaculture products.

COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) n. 1419/2013 dated 17th December 2013 on the recognition of producer organizations and inter-branch organizations, the extension of the rules of producer organizations and inter-branch organizations and the publication of price limits as provided for in Regulation (EU) Nn. 1379/2013 on the common organization of the markets of fishery and aquaculture products.

Financing fisheries policy. The European Fund for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), adopted by the Council and the European Parliament, which came into force on 1st January 2014. Aims to reduce fish stocks to sustainable levels, put an end to fishing practices that lead to a waste of resources, and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas.

The implementation of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy will be based on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), a financial instrument that will cover the period 2014-2020.

The EMFF will provide operators with the necessary incentives to reduce the impact of their activities on marine ecosystems, ending overfishing, and arresting the decline of fish stocks.

It will give impetus to innovative projects such as the replacement of fishing nets with more selective gear in order to reduce discards, the development of new technologies that will limit the impact of fisheries and aquaculture on the environment, also strengthening the grant of aids to the traditional coastal fleets, which remain the engine of the economy of many coastal communities.

The aquaculture industry will also be supported by promoting new products including non-food, as well as sufficient funds for data collection, monitoring and control.

The EMFF will support projects related to maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance and marine knowledge, encouraging fishermen and scientists to work together to be able to exploit the natural resources in a sustainable manner.

The rules governing the EMFF will be harmonized with those of other EU funds by streamlining bureaucracy, favourable to beneficiaries and national authorities.

The EMFF will be part of the new Common Strategic Framework, which will ensure the consistent operation of all Funds established by the EU, avoiding overlaps or duplication.

The total budget will be allocated among the Member States on the basis of the importance of the fisheries sector in each country. Therefore the principles of shared management will be applied between the Commission and the Member States. Each Member State shall draw up an operational program that will indicate how it intends to use the funds allocated to it for the programming period. After the approval of the program by the Commission, the Member State will select the projects to be financed. The Member States and the Commission jointly control the eligibility of interventions to subsidize the implementation of the programme.


COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) n. 1198/2006 dated 27th July 2006 on the European Fisheries Fund, which establishes the basic principles.

REGULATION (EC) n. 498/2007 dated 26th March 2007 laying down detailed rules for the application of Regulation (EC) n. 1198/2006 concerning the European Fund for Fisheries.

REGULATION (EU) n. 1249/2010 dated 22nd December 2010, amending Regulation (EC) n. 498/2007 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) n. 1198/2006 concerning the European Fund for Fisheries.

REGULATION (EU) n. 508/2014 dated 15th May 2014 on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), repealing Regulations (EC) n. 2328/2003, n. 861/2006, n. 1198/2006, n. 791/2007, n. 1255/2011.

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Participation of stakeholders:  the Advisory Councils

Advisory Councils (AC) are organizations run by interested parties that submit to the European Commission and EU recommendations regarding the management of fisheries, for example, advice on conservation, socio-economic aspects of operations and simplification of the rules. Advisory Councils are consulted in the context of regionalization. Advisory Councils must also contribute to the data for the conservation and management of fisheries.

In addition to the current seven advisory councils listed below, the new CFP provides for the creation of four new Councils for the Black Sea, aquaculture, markets and outermost regions.

Advisory Councils are composed of representatives from industry and other stakeholders (with respectively 60% and 40% of the seats in the general assembly and executive committee). As bodies pursuing an aim of general European interest, they receive financial assistance from the EU.

  • AC "Baltic Sea"
  • AC " Ocean fleet "
  • AC "Mediterranean Sea"
  • AC "North Sea"
  • AC " North-western Waters "
  • AC "Pelagic stocks"
  • AC " south-western waters "

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Illegal, unreported and unregulated Fishing

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) is a serious phenomenon that still afflicts the fishing industry, causing the depletion of fish stocks, destroying marine habitats and creating distortions in the competition, since it puts in a disadvantageous situation honest fishermen, and weakens coastal communities, especially in developing countries.

Italy, with the Coast Guard Headquarters in the function of National Fisheries Control Centre  (NFCC), and the European Union have been committed for several years to deal with and try to curb this phenomenon, eliminating the loopholes that allow operators to benefit from their illegal activities. Among the various measures it is necessary to highlight that:

  • EU Regulation n. 1005/2008 to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), which entered into force on 1st January 2010, introduced a system of control and management of imported/ exported  fisheries products from/to the European Union, through the "catch certificates";
  • only products of sea fishing declared legal, by the flag State or the competent authority in the exporting country through the validation of the certificate of capture, can be imported into the Union or exported from it;
  • the EU periodically publishes a list of vessels engaged in IUU fishing (so-called "black list") based on the reports of the regional fisheries management organizations (RMOs);
  • the IUU Regulation also provides the opportunity to put on the black list countries that turn a blind eye to illegal fishing activities (recently included in this list have been three non-cooperating countries: Belize, Cambodia and Guinea). Any form of trade agreements and trade with the European Union is banned with these countries;
  • regardless of the fishing area and the flag of belonging, EU operators engaged in illegal fishing risk sanctions in proportion to the economic value of the catch, resulting in loss of revenue.
  • those responsible for the national application of the IUU legislation in Italy are the Coast Guard Offices and the Customs Agency. The single authority of coordination is, instead, the Directorate General of Maritime Fisheries and Aquaculture of the Ministry of agricultural food and forestry policies (MAFFP). In particular, Coast Guard Offices are responsible for the validation of catch certificates of fish products caught by Italian vessels and destined for export and checking certificates from non-EU vessels disembarking directly in Italian ports.