Our seas, oceans and coasts are important resources for the EU. The livelihoods of many citizens depend on the sea – fisheries of course, but also tourism and trade are key sectors of the EU economy. The EU fishing industry is the fourth largest in the world, providing some 6.4 million tonnes of fish each year and jobs for more than 350,000 people.
Marine resources must, therefore, be used in a responsible way if we want to maintain the fragile balance of marine ecosystems and in turn protect and develop sea-related human activities.
The protection of our seas and coasts is a complex issue involving several sectors. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the EU's instrument for the management of fisheries and aquaculture. The CFP aims at protecting fish stocks and ensuring the future of the fishing sector. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive is specifically aimed at the protection of the marine environment and natural resources. Finally, the Integrated Maritime Policy seeks to provide a coherent approach to maritime issues, coordinating different policy areas.
Reliable and up-to-date information about the state of marine resources is essential to support sound management decisions. The JRC provides scientific and technical support to the European Commission services in charge of marine and maritime policies. JRC research in this field includes – inter alia - assessing the environmental status of marine waters, assessing fish stocks, providing economic analysis of the fisheries sector, developing new technologies for sustainable fisheries.
Scientific advice to fisheries policy
Scientific knowledge and data are indispensable to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), because policy decisions have to be built on robust and sound knowledge about the level of exploitation that fish stocks can sustain as well as effects of fishing on marine ecosystems. From stock assessment and Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE) to fish habitat and genetics for fish traceability to aquaculture and economic analysis of the fisheries sector, JRC's research in this field contributes to sustainable fisheries management, supporting the European Commission scientifically in the implementation of the CFP.
In this context, the JRC coordinates the scientific advice process of the Commission's own advisory body, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) and is the only assembly centre for fisheries data reported by EU Member States. The provision of sound scientific advice to fisheries management is impossible without the availability of high-quality data on fish stocks, the fishing activity and the fishing fleet.The JRC collects, maintains and disseminates scientific fisheries data from EU member states, which, after being assessed by teams of independent STECF experts, are used to inform the CFP decision making process. This work is a result of the Council Regulation EC 2371/2002, which established the STECF in order to support the conservation and management of living aquatic resources, including biological, economic, environmental, social and technical considerations. Fisheries science relies greatly on modelling, and JRC researchers contribute to new more comprehensive modelling approaches, including the application of bio-economics, in support of Management Strategy Evaluations and policy development.
Data collection for Fisheries & Aquaculture
To enable scientific support to the Common Fisheries Policy, the availability of sound and comprehensive fisheries and aquaculture data is indispensable. The JRC collects and maintains fisheries data reported by EU Member States under the remit of the Data Collection Framework (DCF). The DCF supports the collection, management and use of fisheries data in the framework of multi-annual national programmes. It obliges Member States to provide access to these data for fisheries management advice, scientific publication, public debate and stakeholder participation in policy development.
Fight against illegal fishing and fraud along the supply chain
Illegal, Unregulated, Unreported (IUU) fishing and fraud along the fish supply chain is unanimously recognised as a serious impediment to sustainable fisheries at the EU and global levels. Work in the fight against IUU fishing includes research into advanced techniques for product traceability based on forensic genetics and chemistry. Molecular methods, such as those based on DNA-technology, make it possible to identify species even in processed products. The JRC conducts research in forensic genetics, genomics and chemistry, and promotes the awareness of these technologies. An important part of this process is the concept of Ocean to Fork, which allows for traceability in the fisheries sector.
Protecting our seas
By assessing European marine waters the JRC supports the Marine Strategy Framework Directive’s aim to achieve a Good Environmental Status (GES) of all European Seas by 2020. The JRC works towards determining the environmental status of the seas and establishing monitoring programmes. In parallel, the JRC provides access to up-to-date, ready-to-use and tailor-made information for the assessment of the ecological quality of coastal and marine waters in Europe.
A fishing trawler at sea surrounded overhead by seagulls.