European Council for Skills and Employment in the Fisheries Sector


The fisheries sector has been affected for several decades by a severe crisis due to factors such as: the increase of fuel price, the stagnation of first sale fish prices, the decrease of fishing resources and income. Moreover, the fishing industry, such as many other sectors, is facing deep technological changes as well as challenges at the level of the organisation, management and competition on the market.

The European institutions foresee an important restructuring of the fishing industry, in order to make it more competitive. In this context, the Common Fisheries Policy is being reformed and substantial changes are planned. In addition, it is worth reminding the long-dated deficiencies in the field of vocational training in the fisheries sector and the risks linked to the profession itself, as well as mentioning the precarious situation and scarce skills of the work force in the fisheries sector characterised by a low level of education, a high average of aged workers, and the fact that the sector is often little inclined to innovation and to adapt to technological changes.

As a result, the identification, analysis and definition of the skill needs and employability in the sea fishery sector are a key element to improve the functioning of the labour market and competitiveness of fishing enterprises.

For many years, the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Maritime Fisheries (SSDCMF) has included in its annual work programme, issues dealing with health, safety, vocational training, free movement of workers, mutual recognition of certificates and qualifications, accident prevention, risk assessment and many more. This shows that the European social partners can be relied upon not only to identify social issues in this sector but also acknowledge their capacity to provide concrete answers in order to meet the needs of this sector by implementing strategic actions for a sustainable development.

Thus, the European social partners agreed during the SSDCMF plenary of 5 July 2011 that it was important to conduct a feasibility study to determine if the conditions and the partners could be met in order to create a European Council for skills and employment in the fisheries sector.

The ETF represents more than 2.5 million transport workers from 243 transport unions and 41 European countries, in the following sectors: railways, road transport and logistics, maritime transport, inland waterways, civil aviation, ports & docks, tourism and fisheries.

Europêche represents the catching sector in Europe. Currently the association comprises 17 national organizations of fishing enterprises from the following 11 countries: BE, DE, DK, ES, FR, GR, IT, MT, NL, PL, UK.

Cogeca represents the agricultural and fisheries cooperatives in Europe. Today, representatives of fisheries cooperatives are from the following countries: DE, DK, EL, ES, FR, IE, IT, MT, NL, SI.

European Council for skills and employment in the fisheries sector

The European social partners have successfully carried out the feasibility study achieving all required targets set by the Commission within a 10 months period. To perform the feasibility study, it was necessary to:

  • Map the national and regional observatories for employment or national sector councils, in charge of analyzing the labour market in the fisheries sector and anticipating changes and needs as regards vocational training in the coastal EU Member States (EP(12)76 final);

  • Analyze potential partners composing the European Council from national and/or regional (observatories, research institutions, sector councils, etc..) which produce information on the labor market in the fishing industry and on anticipation and mismatches of skills (EP(12)77 final);

  • Update and examine training centers identified in the “REFOPE” - European Network for Fisheries Training and Employment (EP(12)78 final);

  • Define the type of information to be exchanged, the work program, financial and operational estimation framework, SWOT analysis and future activities of the European Council for Skills and Employment in the Fisheries Sector (EP(12)111 final);

  • Identify the problems of recruitment, skilled labor, mobility, mutual recognition of certificates in the sector, forecast the evolution of the economy of fishing and identify the conditions for the implementation of the Sector Council (EP(12)111 final).

In the short-term the European Council for skills and employment in the fisheries sector will have, amongst other issues, to tackle the following matters: the ratification of the STCW-F Convention of the IMO, which will make the harmonization of fishermen’s training possible, the absence of training centres and programmes in some Member States, the weakness of the training system in many Member States and the lack of compulsory basic training to access the profession of fisherman in many Member States.

These actions aim at producing the following effects on the labour market of the fishing industry:

  • Better adjust the training supply to the skills demand;

  • Decrease the existing skills inadequacy resulting in a lack of or insufficient aptitudes;

  • Reduce unemployment;

  • Enhance the competitiveness of enterprises;

  • Improve the training and qualification level of workers in the European fishing industry.

Mutual Recognition of Certificates in the Sea Fishing Sector in Europe, Benodet Oct. 2000

This document includes comparative tables of EU national certification systems, different professional certificates and requirements for critical jobs on fishing vessels.