Overfishing may cause a collapse of fish stocks across the European Union and destroy a major source of revenues for many members. Rights issues also deter countries such as Iceland from joining the union for fear there waters would be overrun with European Union vessels.

"Much is being made of fishing rights around the EU. As long as fishing rights have been around there have been squabbles over those rights. Its not just local fishermen fighting over the best spot but nations fighting over fishing quotas set by the EU. Fishermen from many countries say that national fishing limits are too small while other countries think everything is just fine. European waters are heavily over fished and over 90% of all Cod is fished before they have a chance to breed."


"Rights-based management includes any system of allocating individual fishing rights to fishermen, fishing vessels, enterprises, cooperatives or fishing communities. Such systems, which exist in all fisheries management regimes in one form or another, basically define the rights to use fisheries resources. Fishing rights have a value and can be traded. The trade in fishing rights was first addressed in the context of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2002, when the Commission committed itself to producing a report on the scope for provisions within EU and/or national fisheries management systems for a system of tradable fishing rights, which can be individual or collective.

Markets in fishing rights exist in most Member States. In some, national regimes specify that days at sea or part of the catch quota can be sold or leased. In others, those who wish to acquire more fishing rights have to buy a fishing vessel. The degree of transparency or openness of these transactions may vary greatly depending on how the system is formalised. Even when they are not specified by national law, in most Member States such markets exist de facto. The cost of acquiring these rights is at times substantial and can have a major effect on the development of the fisheries sector. The debate on rights-based management should explore ways to facilitate greater transparency, improve legal certainty and security, and ultimately achieve greater economic efficiency for fishermen, which will also mean minimising costs to the rest of society.

The debate also needs to address the potential negative effects of such systems - such as the risk that rights are concentrated in the hands of a few large companies to the detriment of small coastal fishing communities - and the way they could be addressed.

The Commission has opened a public consultation to invite stakeholders to express their views. The Commission will also carry out studies and organise seminars and meetings to further explore the issues. The Commission will sum up the debate and assess the need for follow-up at Community and national levels in 2008."