We are working to reduce the threats to marine life from overfishing and illegal fishing in our ocean.

Fish are a vital part of a healthy marine ecosystem, but their numbers are still depleting too fast, having a knock-on effect on countless other species. We make sure the laws protecting fish stocks in the EU are implemented properly and hold the EU, governments and fishing vessels accountable for sticking to them. We work with lawmakers, retailers and businesses to push for sustainable seafood supply chains.


of fish stocks in the North East Atlantic are overfished, 32% to a point that risks them disappearing completely


of seafood in Europe is imported. The EU is the largest importer of seafood in the world, representing a total of 25.3 billion euros in 2018.

What we do

There is a clear commitment within the EU to keep fishing to sustainable levels, yet in reality, there is still a huge problem with overfishing and illegal fishing in EU waters and EU vessels in other waters.

  1. Pushing for transparency

    EU law included a deadline for all fishing in its waters to be sustainable by 2020, but EU fisheries ministers continue to ignore scientific advice and set unsustainable fishing limits. So we’re putting pressure on the EU to set such limits in a transparent manner.

  2. Tackling overfishing

    We’re contributing to a reform of the system for policing overfishing to make it more effective. We’re pushing to introduce new technology to electronically monitor vessels, making sure they're not fishing beyond their quotas.

  3. Following the money

    The EU distributes almost €1bn in fishing subsidies every year. We’re making sure this is not being used to increase fishing levels. The EU is a world leader in fishing policies, and if these subsidies are not just reduced, but eliminated, there is a high chance that the rest of the world will follow suit.

  4. Making seafood supply chains sustainable

    We’re working to promote responsible practices in seafood supply chains. We work with a coalition of seafood retailers to drive change and ensure seafood supply chains are transparent and traceable. We are also influencing policy at national and international levels and driving awareness amongst businesses of the risks and costs of unsustainable fishing.

  5. Making sure existing laws are implemented

    We aim to eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing from seafood markets by making sure the EU IUU Regulation is implemented by Members States. We are also working to make the control of fish imports more thorough.

What we've achieved:

We worked to secure the Common Fisheries Policy, which came into effect in 2013 and has significantly reduced overfishing since. Now we are working with partners to take action to ensure catch limits in Europe are sustainable and fishing activities are policed – which is what the law demands.

Recognising the power that businesses can have on their suppliers, we work with the seafood supply chain to promote responsible practices and drive seafood sustainability. In the UK, we set up the Sustainable Seafood Coalition to ensure a healthy future for our ocean. We want all fish and seafood sold in the UK to come from sustainable sources. Already over 40 retailers and businesses have signed up to its codes of conducts - including 8 of the UK's 10 largest supermarkets. In Spain we also work with businesses to support Fishery Improvement projects as well as transparency and traceability

We believe in healthy seas full of fish. We’re working to make sure EU laws work to fight overfishing and illegal fishing.
Elizabeth Druel, Food Systems, Oceans and Land Use Lead (Europe)
Seagulls flying above a fishing boat at sea

Pressure mounts on EU council to be more transparent

After years of advocacy work, the EU now has legal commitments under the Common Fisheries policy, legislation that has hugely reduced overfishing.

But the discussions in which limits are set are still happening behind closed doors. We think there needs to be greater transparency. In 2020, the EU ombudsman found that the records of these discussions should be published after we made a legal complaint – the beginning of a breakthrough.