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WWF: Evaluating the sustainability of the EU’s external fishing activity


Through Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) or other forms of agreements, the EU fishing fleet engages in extensive fishing activities in the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) of other countries. Vessels operating in these territories are known as the distant water or external fleet.

It is, however, difficult to evaluate the sustainability of the EU’s external fishing practices due to lack of formal documentation and scientific data as well as many cases of misreporting and continued problems of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The United Nations Agenda 2030 and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) represent a useful framework to evaluate the contribution of the Common Fisheries Policy’s external dimension to implementing sustainable development.


The New Economics Foundation conducted a comprehensive review of the CFP’s external dimension, the SDGs and the role of SFPAs and RFMOs illustrating where strengths and deficiencies lie when considering Europe’s fishing activities outside of EU waters.

Case studies include Spain and France’s involvement in SFPAs, and the role of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and Southern Indian Ocean Fisheries Agreement (SIOFA) in achieving the SDGs.


As a result of our study, WWF recommendations highlight specific areas for improvement to move the EU’s external fleet towards a more sustainable future as outlined by the SDGs.

Related journal article: Johnson, A F., Lidström, S., Williams, C., Niederműller, S., Vilhelm Poulsen K V., Burgess, S., Kent, R., and Davies, W. (2021). A review of the external dimension of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy and the Sustainable Development Goals. Fish and Fisheries

Visit the WWF site for more information here.

Download the summary of recommendations here.

Download the full report here.

New Economics Foundation

NEF aims to create a new economy that works for people and within environmental limits. We are guided by three missions:

A new social settlement
To ensure people are paid well, have more time off to spend with their families, and have access to the things we all need for a decent life.

A Green New Deal
A plan for government-led investment to reduce the carbon we emit and boost nature, while creating a new generation of jobs.

The democratic economy
To devolve state power and transform ownership of the economy to give everyone an equal stake in the places where we live and work.

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