Contact person

  • Dr. Jörg Berkenhagen

Tracking structural change


Number of vessels, tonnage and engine power of the German fishing fleet (© Thünen-Institut)

Without any doubt there has been structural change in marine fisheries. An impact assessment of future legislative measures on the structure and competitiveness of marine fishing is a challenging task.

Development of some economic indicators for the German cutter fleet (© Thünen-Institut)
Revenues of the German cutter fleet by most important species (© Thünen-Institut)

In cooperation with international expert s we compile the Annual Economic Report for EU fisheries. For that purpose we carry out an annual survey on economic statistics of fishing enterprises, combine them with the results of the accounting network of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) and analyse them together with logbooks and sales notes as provided by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE). This information allows us, e.g., to assess economic implications of new regulations and their potential impact on the structural development of the fishing business.

Currently we are dealing with the recently launched landing obligation: In the past fishermen had to discard undersized fish or fish for which no quota was available. As of 2015, fish of every species which are managed under a quota system have to be landed and counted against the quota of the vessel. This applies also to undersized fish, which are still forbidden to be sold for human consumption. This system has been installed for certain fisheries and is supposed to be extended over time. The purpose is a ‘double dividend’: On the one hand an incentive has been set for the fishermen to avoid unwanted catches in order to get the most out of the available quota. Thus fishermen should use highly selective gear. On the other hand, the unintended catch of non-target species, which usually would not survive discarding, is expected to be reduced. This should benefit the reproductive capacity of related stocks. The monitoring and evaluation of the expected economic consequences of the landing obligation is among our core tasks.

It is one thing to monitor structural changes. However, at the same time strategic considerations of how to address the consequences of structural changes and how fishermen can survive the competition are crucial. Which prerequisites are to be provided to enable the remaining coastal fishermen to be profitable? What would give fishermen more planning security? How can young fishermen be supported in running their own business? Which selling points could be unique to strengthen competitiveness? Which services are provided by fishermen without compensation – e.g., in tourism? These are some of the issues that we address currently at the Thünen-Institute.