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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:

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