During the fisheries value chain, activities relevant for maritime spatial planning are related to fishing and capture. Recreational fisheries are also linked to the last step of the chain, consumption, as the tourists are paying for the sea tour as well. The activities of the fishing sector can be differentiated into a) the scale of fishing operation b) the type of fishing activity using different types of gear.

Basic facts

  • Gross value added: nearly €3.9 and Gross Profit €1.6 billion (excluding subsidies); generated by EU fishing fleet (excl. Greece) EU and Norway in 2016[1].
  • State of the sector: Stable to decreasing. Overall deteriorated performance due to: Overfishing[2],[3],[4] stock fluctuations [5], differences in profitability between basins [6], low average sale prices for many commercially important species [7].
  • Presence across sea basins: Dispersed throughout all sea basins [8]
  • Land-Sea Interaction occurs through ports and hinterland connections along the fisheries value chain (capture, auction, processing, distribution, wholesaler, retail, consumer) [9]

Frequently asked questions [25]

Specific FAQs regarding this sector can be found at the bottom of the page. The following questions provide overall information on current spatial needs and anticipated future developments.

What are the present spatial needs of the fishing sector?

Historically, fishing (along with shipping) is the sector whose spatial claim has the longest tradition for marine areas[10]. Conflicts over access exist between existing or new marine uses.

Having a highly diversified sector (variety of gear types and specific sea uses, fishing species and types of vessels) could be positive for dealing with potential spatial barriers. However, such fragmentation makes fishers a weaker party relative to other stakeholders, limiting their ability to influence the process in an MSP stakeholder exchange[11].

Growing MSP relevant data on fisheries, for example by using VMS data systems to control fishing activities, can help to get an overview of what happens in all EU sea basins for improved management[12].

The increased demand for fish and sea food proteins fosters the application of spatial sensitive decision support tools such as Marxan in order to secure sufficient space for fisheries [13]

To combat overexploitation of resources, the reduction of exploitation rates (e.g. by the reduction of the fishing fleet) to secure spawning grounds and migratory roots in particular for diadromous types of fish is foreseen [14]. These links between threats and new management approaches for different stages of fish life cycles are relevant for MSP planners.

Fisheries is not only an economic sector according to areas with high fishing effort, high catches or high revenues. This approach ignores the broader view of maritime spatial planning which takes economic, social, cultural and ecological dimension of fisheries into account.

Fisheries have an important role in maintaining cultural seascapes which have a spatial aspect. Also, other fishing activities currently not or not sufficiently regulated (recreational fisheries) could be included into MSPs.

Which anticipated future developments of the industry are relevant to MSP?

Technological innovation: Technological improvements and innovation allow the reduction of catch costs per unit, taking into account environmental legislation.

Fleet Reduction: The reduction of the number of fleets and the related possible positive effect on European fish stocks in a mid-term view may lead to higher gross value added (GVA )of the fisheries sector which can affect the prioritization of the sector positively within planning procedures and in relation to other sectors.

Shifting use in coastal areas and Exclusive Economic Zones: Further negative impacts of overfishing can cause a shift of uses in coastal areas and EEZs of Member States towards specific areas. This can affect common uses of EEZs by different countries as well.

Blue Corridors: Focus on fish stock recovery under CFP will encourage MSP to put more attention to preservation of the connectivity of important fish habitats and to the preservation of the blue corridors. For the same reason MSP will face the challenge of taking into consideration large temporal and spatial variability of both the spawning and its effects while determining areas with special importance for reproduction of fish species [15].

Extension of fisheries grounds: The implementation of sustainable fisheries management and the accelerated use of selective fishing gear according to the CFP reform in 2014 may support the recovery of fish stocks and the extension of fisheries grounds to areas not in common so far.

Multi-function Ports: Port infrastructure for fisheries can be influenced by reduced landings and marginalise specific ports and upgrade others, including the support of monopolies. Many ports should be turned into multi-function ports serving all shipping, sea tourism and fishing.

Social-cultural aspects: Social-cultural aspects of artisanal fisheries could gain more attention through co-management with the touristic sector.

Climate Change: Climate change is expected to result in more extreme weather conditions (including heavier rain and storms) [16] as well as warming waters rapidly and causing acidification. This may cause an alteration of fishery uses to other areas not used intensively so far.

Multi-use approach: Multi-use approaches, e.g. with aquaculture, offshore wind farming or new marine uses can change the need for space of fisheries and influence fishers’ behaviour and management of fish stocks. Synergies can be used to solve observing future trends in the uses of the seas.

Recommendations for MSP processes in support of the sector

Tools, models and methods for fisheries management: A range of these are available or under development (despite some still not directly applicable by MSP managers). Research is starting to economically valorize sea space in relation to fishery and its implication for MSP [17].

Relevant life-stage areas for fishing and fish species: MSP processes have to distinguish between relevant areas for fishing and for fish species according to life stages. [18]

Co-management: Using synergies in terms of co-management, or spatially allocating areas within fishing grounds to reduce conflicts, and through the co-existence of fisheries with other existing or new marine uses [19].

Engaging and cooperating with fishermen: Having an early and permanent engaging and cooperating environment with fishermen is essential in order to allow their participation in MSP processes [20].

Neighbouring states cooperation: Neighbouring states should cooperatein order to take the needs of fish (and fisheries) into account as they move across national jurisdictions and live in shared ecosystems [21]. The developmentof cross-border (pilot) MSPs could foster these processes [22].

Fisheries integration in MSP: MSP is not the only instrument for the spatial management of fisheries. As such, currently fisheries are usually not or not fully integrated into marine spatial plans. Those existing inshore or offshore maritime spatial plans taking into account the fisheries sector are not coming up with spatial designations but pass the issue to subsequent licensing procedures [23] or focus on sectorial fisheries management [24]. Reconsidering the global scale of fisheries will be important for a better integration of fisheries in MSP’s in all EU sea basins.


For more information, please visit the long-version of the sector fiche which includes further detailed information, resources and references.


[1] European Commission (2016). Maritime affairs and fisheries.

[2] European Commission (n.d.). The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): Management of EU Fisheries.

[3] OurFish (2017). EU: Despite Reformed Common Fisheries Policy, We are Still Overfishing. Press release.

[4] STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries) (2017). The 2017 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet (STECF-17-12). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi 10.2760/36154

[5] HELCOM (n.d.). Commercial Fisheries.

[6] STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries) (2017). The 2017 Annual Economic Report on the EU Fishing Fleet (STECF-17-12). Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union. doi 10.2760/36154 

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] De Silva, D.A.M. (2011). Value chain of fish and fishery products: origin, functions and application in developed and developing country markets. Rome: FAO.

[10] Hassler, B., Blažauskas, N., Gee, K., Gilek, M., Janßen, H., Luttmann, A., Piwowarczyk, J., Saunders, F., Stalmokaite, I., Strand, H., Zaucha, J. (2017). Ambitions and Realities in Baltic Sea Marine Spatial Planning and the Ecosystem Approach. BONUS BALTSPACE D2:2. Policy and Sector Coordination in Promotion of Regional Integration. Huddinge: Södertörn University.

[11] See DISPLACE model

[12] European Commission (n.d.). The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): Management of EU Fisheries.

[13] Kannen, A., Gee, K., Blazauskas, N., Cormier, R., Dahl,K., Göke, C., Morf, A., Ross,A., Schultz-Zehden A. (2015). Draft Catalogue of Approaches and Tools. BONUS BALTSPACE Deliverable 3.1.

[14] European Commission (2016). Maritime affairs and fisheries.

[15] Zaucha et. Al, (2015). Study of Conditions of Spatial Development of Polish Sea Areas:


[16] Sarwar, G. M. (2006). Impacts of climate change on maritime industries (Doctoral dissertation, World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden).​

[17] Mytlewski, A. (2017). Economic valorisation of Polish space in relation to fishery.

[18] Popper, A.N., Hawkins, A.D., Fay, R.R., Mann, D.A., Bartol, S., Carlson, T.J., Coombs, S., Ellison, W.T., Gentry, R.L., Halvorsen, M.B, Løkkeborg, S., Rogers, P.H., Southall, B.L., Zeddies, D.G. Tavolga, W.M. (2014). ASA S3/SC1.4. TR-2014 Sound Exposure Guidelines for Fishes and Sea Turtles. A Technical Report prepared by ANSI-Accredited Standards Committee S3/SC1 and registered with ANSI. SpringerBriefs in oceanography. Springer International Publishing AG, 92 p.

[19] Stelzenmüller, V., Schulze, T., Gimpel, A., Bartelings, H., Bello, E., Bergh, O., Bolman, B., Caetano, M., Davaasuren, N., Fabi, G., Ferreira, J.G., Gault, J., Gramolini, R., Grati, F., Hamon, K., Jak, R., Kopke, K., Laurans, M., Mäkinen, T., O’Donnell, V., O’Hagan, A.M., O’Mahony, C., Oostenbrugge, H., Ramos, J., Saurel, C., Sell, A., Silvo, K., Sinschek, K., Soma, K., Stenberg, C., Taylor, N., Vale, C., Vasquez, F., Verner-Jeffreys, D. (2013). Guidance on a Better Integration of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and other Activities in the Coastal Zone: From tools to practical examples. Ireland:COEXIST project.

[20] , B., Blažauskas, N., Gee, K., Gilek, M., Janßen, H., Luttmann, A., Piwowarczyk, J., Saunders, F., Stalmokaite, I., Strand, H., Zaucha, J. (2017). Ambitions and Realities in Baltic Sea Marine Spatial Planning and the Ecosystem Approach. BONUS BALTSPACE D2:2. Policy and Sector Coordination in Promotion of Regional Integration. Huddinge: Södertörn University.

[21] Gee, K., Kannen, A., Heinrichs, B. (2011). BaltSeaPlan Vision 2030: Towards the sustainable planning of Baltic sea space. Hamburg: BaltSeaPlan.

[22] Käppeler, B., Toben, S., Chmura, G., Walkowicz, S., Nolte, N., Schmidt, P., Lamp, J., Gee, K., Göke ,C., Mohn C. (2011). Developing a Pilot Maritime Spatial Plan for the Pomeranian Bight and Arkona Basin. BaltSeaPlan Report no. 9.

[23] H. M. Government (2014). East Inshore and East Offshore marine plans. H. M. Government, London, 193pp.

[24] NME (2011). First Update of the Integrated Management Plan for the Marine Environment of the Barents Sea–Lofoten Area — Meld. St. 10 (2010–2011). Report to the Storting (White Paper), Recommendation of 11 March 2011 from the Ministry of the Environment, approved in the Council of State the Same Day. Oslo.


Frequently Asked Questions

Tools and/or datasets for mapping fishery characteristics are available at different scales and resolutions.

  • The Global Record of Stocks and Fisheries service is available through the on-going BlueBRIDGE project Virtual Research Environment (access subject to authorization). This service is the basis for mapping regional (and global) FAO indicators on the status of stocks and fisheries.
  • The European Atlas of the Seas includes information on Fishing Fleets by port for Europe.
  • Dataset on fisheries are available through the European Marine Observation and Data Network (EMODnet ), under the Human Activities Data portal. Specifically, data about fisheries management and fishing impacts at the level of the regional sea-basins are available through EMODnet Sea Basin Checkpoints (North Sea CheckpointAtlantic CheckpointMedSea CheckpointBaltic Checkpoint).
  • ​High-resolution map of fishing intensity covering all EU waters is available online through the Mapping Fishing Activities (MFA) GIS tool, prepared by JRC provided by Blue Hub - Exploiting Maritime Big Data.
  • The General Fishery Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) provides data and maps related to fishery effort and fishing areas for the Mediterranean Sea.
  • The MEFEPO - North Western Waters Atlas provides an overview of the North Western Waters ecosystem, including fishery and other human activities, in addition to a lot of information on various ecosystem components. This information is provided in non-technical language and intended to help policy makers, managers and stakeholders in decision-making.
  • The freely accessible Marine Management Organisation’s Management Information System shows the density of fishing vessels in different areas over time. This allows fishing information to be seen in conjunction with layers of information for other maritime activities and marine conditions. Fishery information and maps are included also in other information systems, such as, for example, the Adriplan Data Portal for the Adriatic Sea and the Baltic Sea data and map service provided by HELCOM for the Baltic Sea.
  • The Automatic Identification System (AIS) allows for real time geo-tracking and identification of equipped vessels, and provide data to map and describe marine human activities, including fisheries, which can be used to support  MSP process. Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data from fishing vessels can be also used to determine fishing efforts and establish ‘Principal’ fishing areas, as done in the case of the German EEZ. The use of these data compensate for inability to define and zone fishery areas. The delineation of principal areas is an appropriate method to indicate key areas for fisheries which may be regarded as minimum areas required to maintain fisheries. 

Concerns from the fishing sector and spatial need of fisheries have been considered in a number of MSP studies. 

  • The Portuguese MSP study (POEM) aimed at setting out the economic, environmental and social importance of Portugal’s mainland sea area, showing existing and potential uses and their integrated planning and adaptive management. Among other actors, it involved the participation of representatives of the fishing industry and their concerns were incorporated into the outcomes.The following key questions were addressed: How can a national knowledge base be created for MSP? How can actual and potential maritime activities be mapped? What management measures might be proposed for maritime sectors through MSP?
  • The BaltSeaPlan project produced a report “Towards integration of Fisheries into Maritime Spatial Planning”, which investigates the possible opportunities and suitability of using spatial planning to prepare regulations in fisheries management, analyses the current legal situation and provides samples of proposed regulations to be included in MSPs. The report suggests , that reservation areas may be established where special weight is given to fishing interests and only compatible uses are permitted. 
  • For the drafted Polish MSP, economic valorization of Polish sea space related to fishery was assessed. This was ultimately aimed at understanding which areas of the sea territory are important for the fisheries sector. The study was based on fisheries data such as costs, revenues, and fixed and variable costs to assess the productivity of the area. In addition, Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) data, operational data of the fleet, recorded catches and efforts have been the basis for assessing efforts intensity in an area. The results of the study will flow into the final national Polish MSP.

In the framework of the COEXIST project a Guidance on Better Integration of Aquaculture, Fisheries, and other Activities in the Coastal Zone was prepared. Different methods and tools are suggested to examine economic, ecological and social dimensions in marine spatial planning, having been tested in different case studies across European Sea basins.

Environmental accounting has been proposed as a tool for planning conservation measures and sustainable uses of marine ecosystems. The biophysical and non-market monetary value of natural capital of the Egadi Islands MPA (South Italy) was assessed through the emergy accounting method. In addition, by using Marxan software, the results of the environmental accounting were integrated with spatial data on main human uses to identify key areas for natural capital conservation, taking into consideration the trade-offs between protection measures and human exploitation. 

The ECOAST Project applied the DISPLACE fishery modelto spatial planning of the Northern Adriatic Sea, an area characterized by intense and conflicting fishing activities, to assess the effects of a suite of spatial management, aiming to reduce conflicts between different fishery activities (trawling vs small-scale fishery) and the pressure on four demersal fish stocks of high commercial interest. 

In The Netherlands the VIBEG agreement is assisting the implementation of the Natura2000 goals in the Natura2000 areas Vlakte van Raan and North Sea Coastal Zone. The agreement is the result of long and intensive discussions between the fishing industry, nature organisations and the Dutch Government. A steering group set up by the Dutch Minister. The group’s members represent the World Wildlife Fund, the North Sea Foundation, the Dutch Fish Product Board, the Dutch federation of fishing associations, IMARES Wageningen and various departments of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation, and the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment.

Active engagement of fisheries stakeholders through their participation in scientific research has been proved to help reduce tension and build collaborative working relationships that yield long-term benefits to resource management.  A good practice of participatory research in fishery science has been developed in the context of the GAP1 project. The objectives of the project were driven by the need for fisheries stakeholders, scientist and policy makers to work together more effectively to address the challenges of sustainable fisheries management. GAP aims to incorporate the knowledge and skills of fishermen in research that provides the scientific advice to policy makers.

Another relevant experience comes from the MASPNose that provided facilitation, support and financial means to allow a complex stakeholder process to take place with the aim of developing a plan for the Dogger Bank (North Sea) that integrated fishing with conservation of 3 Natura SACs. The Dogger Bank is area under jurisdiction of the United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.  The project undertook a series of workshops and extensive engagement with planning authorities and stakeholders to investigate the issues on the Dogger Bank and to develop position papers and outputs on the experience in the case study and the lessons learned.

The Fishing Liaison with Offshore Wind and Wet Renewables Group (FLOWW), led by The Crown Estate (UK) was prepared to address matters arising from the interaction of the fishing and offshore renewable energy industries, to promote and share best practice, and to encourage liaison with other sectors in the marine environment. The guidance is intended for OREI developers and the commercial fishing industry, and draws on the extensive experience gained through the development of the first three offshore wind leasing rounds in the UK , as well as the emerging wave and tidal sector.

The guidance highlights i.a. the practice of establishing zones of exclusion around offshore renewable energy installations. Despite the guidance focusses specifically on the definition of safety / exclusion zones in the UK context, the establishment of a similar group of stakeholders within different member state jurisdictions, or even at a North Sea scale, would be beneficial to review the legislative requirements within their own jurisdictions, and share experience where practicable.

Last Update 25.02.2021