The Marine living resources sector has steadily increased in recent years, generating a gross value added (GVA) of about EUR 19.3 billion in 2019, a 31% increase compared to 2009. In 2019, the sector contributed to 10.5% of the EU Blue Economy GVA (established sectors), up from 9.6% in 2009.
The industry encompasses the harvesting of renewable biological resources (primary sector), their conversion into food, feed, bio‐based products and bio-energy (processing) and their distribution along the supply chain.
The Marine living resources sector comprises three subsectors:
- primary sector: capture fisheries (small-scale coastal, large-scale and industrial fleets) and aquaculture (marine, freshwater and shellfish);
- processing of fish products: processing and preservation of fish, crustaceans and molluscs; meal preparation, manufacture of oils and fats and other food products;
- distribution of fish products: retail sale of fish, crustaceans and molluscs in specialised stores and wholesale outlets.
The European Union is the world's sixth-largest producer of fishery and aquaculture products, accounting for around 3% of global output (after China, Indonesia, India, Vietnam, and Peru). Global production has remained relatively stable in recent years. In 2019, the EU's vessels landed more than 4 million tonnes of seafood, worth EUR 6.3 billion, while the aquaculture sector produced 1.2 million tonnes, worth EUR 4 billion.
In 2019, the sector employed over 538 700 people, accounting for 12% of all EU blue jobs (established sectors). However, with employment declining and yearly personnel costs rising to EUR 11.9 billion in 2019, the average annual gross wage was over EUR 22 100 in 2019, up 26% from EUR 17 560 in 2009.
In 2019 the industry made a gross profit of EUR 7.2 billion in 2019, up 41% since 2009 (EUR 5.1 billion). Turnover reached almost EUR 121.1 billion, 29% more than in 2009. The sector invested (net) EUR 2.5 billion in tangible goods, a figure that has fluctuated between EUR 1.8 billion in 2011 and EUR 3.0 billion in 2009.
Commercial fishing competes with other maritime activities in terms of resources and space. This is especially true in the areas of maritime transportation, non-living marine resources, and ocean energy (offshore windfarms). Capture fisheries, on the other hand, may profit from port activities.
Immediate action is required to ensure the availability and quality of marine data and a willingness to follow scientific recommendations and properly implement of management measures. Many stocks are still overfished or have exceeded their biological limits, and they must be managed sustainably. There is also a need to limit fishing activities in order to safeguard and conserve seabed habitats.
Given the growing demand for seafood products and the opportunity to establish new farms, it seems reasonable to expect an increase in EU aquaculture products, particularly those with a high degree of control (e.g. in closed systems), at least in the medium term. The Commission's strategic guidelines for a more sustainable and competitive EU aquaculture emphasise future relevance of the low trophic level aquaculture in producing sustainable seafood to meet rising global demand.