Europe’s Fishing Industry – Does It Pay Its Way?

The 2013 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet. You can read the report here. A very good summary is provided here

This annual report represents a snap shot of the economic performance of Europe’s fishing fleet in 2011.

I have found this report very helpful. It is the best assessment of the economic viability of the fleet. It has for years pointed out that for many countries in Europe, the best  value for money proposition for many countries, is to close the industry. It costs a lot more than in brings in.

I thought this a strange idea.  But, many officials in governments are very open and admit the industry costs a lot more to keep going, with subsidies and not passing on full costs, than simply closing it down.

I thought this strange as I thought private business should make a profit in the short, medium and long term. If they don’t it is time to re-allocate the skills and capital somewhere else. These ideas are apostate to many on all sides of the fisheries debte in Europe.

So, it was great to see STECF note that a lot more of Europe’s fishing industry are making fair to good profits.


Key Stats

  • The number of fishers employed in the EU fishing fleet in 2011 was 127,686
  • In 2012 the total number of vessels in the EU fishing fleet was 82,047, with a combined gross tonnage (GT) of 1.69 million tonnes and total engine power of 6.36 million kilowatts (kW)
  • The overall capacity of the EU fleet decreased between 2008 and 2012 (vessels: ‐7%, GT: ‐12% and kW: ‐9%)
  • Gross & net profits rose ), €1.29 billion (a 7% increase from 2010) and €410 million (an increase of 22% from 2010)
  • Total Income €7.134 billion v Total Costs €6.7 billion

Who Can Catch the Most?


Whose Getting the Most Value Out of the Catch



Which Part of the Fleet Is Catching the Most



Mixed Picture on Fleet Profitability



Small Is Beautiful

The industrial and distant water fleets have net profits of around 6% and the small -scale fleet have a net profit rate of 8%.


Caveat – Is this Really A Viable Business?

 There is a challenge in performing a real audit of fisheries. The books don’t list some of the off the books costs.  The fishing industry and government work hard to keep those costs out of the public domain.

If you wanted to buy this as a business you would need to know the indirect and direct income streams from subsidies (which are not included).  You’d want to have a good idea of the costs in real terms of fishing access (often given away for free). Unlike other fishing nations, such as Norway, the costs of the control and enforcement regime, which are often very high, are not usually born by the industry.

So, whilst the move to greater net profitability is a positive trend, if full cost costing were performed, it would still likely show that Europe’s fishing industry is still making a loss, and for many countries it would be cheaper to have no industry at all, than an industry that makes a net drain on the economy.

For a true picture of the economic health of the industry,  governments will need to lift the veil of secrecy on who gets subsidies, the value of fishing access grants, and the data behind this report.