EUR-Lex Access to European Union law

Back to EUR-Lex homepage

This document is an excerpt from the EUR-Lex website

Common fisheries policy (CFP)

The common fisheries policy (CFP) is a set of rules for conserving marine biological resources and managing and controlling European fisheries inside and outside EU waters. The objective of the CFP is to ensure that fishing and aquaculture activities contribute to long-term environmental, economic and social sustainability. This includes ensuring the traceability, security and quality of products marketed in the EU; contributing to increased productivity, to a fair standard of living for the fisheries sector, including small-scale fisheries, and to stable markets; and ensuring the availability of food supplies at reasonable prices for consumers.

The scope of the CFP includes the conservation of marine biological resources and the management of the fisheries exploiting them. When it comes to market measures and financial measures, the CFP also covers fresh water biological resources and aquaculture activities, as well as the processing and marketing of fishery and aquaculture products.

The most recent CFP reform dates back to 2013 and entered into force on 1 January 2014. The current CFP is based on four main pillars:

  • 1.

    fisheries management

  • 2.

    international policy

  • 3.

    market and trade policy

  • 4.

    funding of the policy.

The fourth element of the CFP is the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (2021-2027), which helps to attain the CFP objectives through financing eligible actions.

The CFP stipulates that catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term. The CFP adopts a cautious approach which recognises the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem. It seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the practice of discarding by avoiding and reducing — as far as possible — unwanted catches, ensuring that catches are landed. The CFP has changed the way in which fisheries policies are managed, giving regional groups of Member States greater control through the introduction of so-called regionalisation.

The CFP is enshrined in Articles 38-43 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). According to Article 3 TFEU, the conservation of marine biological resources under the CFP is an ‘exclusive competence’ of the EU, meaning that the EU alone is able to legislate and adopt binding acts. Member States can only do so if empowered by the EU to implement such acts. According to Article 4 TFEU, those parts of the CFP which deal with aspects other than the conservation of marine biological resources fall under ‘shared competence’, meaning that the EU and its Member States are able to legislate and adopt legally binding acts and Member States can exercise their own competence where the EU does not exercise, or has decided not to exercise, its own competence.