The EU fleet overall remained profitable in 2020 despite Covid, reporting healthy gross and net profit margins of around 26% and 14% respectively, or close to €1.5bn of gross profits and €800m of net profits, according to the EU Commission.
However, the Covid-19 outbreak and the resulting decline in demand and disruptions in the supply chain interrupted the positive trends seen in recent years.
Estimates suggest that the economic performance of the EU fleets declined in 2020 by 17% in landed value, 19% in employment and 29% in net profits compared to 2019.
The Commission said the healthy profits indicated that the industry is strongly resilient, thanks to a combination of low fuel prices and the sector’s efforts in previous years to achieve MSY.
“This is a clear illustration of the benefit of an EU blue economy driven by sustainability,” said the Commission.
“In particular, socio-economic data suggest that the economic performance and salaries of EU fishers tend to improve where fleets depend on stocks that are caught sustainably and tend to stagnate where stocks are overfished or overexploited.”
There are marked differences in performance across fleet categories and fishing regions. Fleets operating in the Atlantic and the North Sea registered higher economic performance than those in the Baltic and the Mediterranean, where numerous stocks still face overfishing or overexploitation issues.
The Commission says it provided ‘rapid support’ to the sector during Covid through amendments to the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) to enable compensation payments, with €136m in 22 member states released for Covid-19 support measures.
Some 61% of the funds were spent on temporary cessation support, 17% on compensation to aquaculture producers and 14% on support to the processing sector.
A temporary state aid framework and support from the European Regional Development Fund were also made available.
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.