Modernisation of fishing vessels must be a priority: SWWAC adopts an opinion on gross tonnage limits adaptation

10 Dec 2020

Statistics tell us that the EU fishing fleet is aged, especially when it comes to small-sized vessels and in certain regions. If we want to improve working and living conditions on board, improve safety, and ultimately attract more young and women workers to the sector, then the modernisation of the fishing vessels needs to be made a priority.

Gross tonnage is currently a criteria used by the Common Fisheries Policy to calculate and limit fishing capacity. The calculation of gross tonnage of a fishing vessel takes into account all volumes (including fish tanks, fish sorting and freezing installations, accommodation for the crew). In order to maximise profits, the vessels owners’ priority is to, within the limitations of allowed gross tonnage, maximise fishing capacity while neglecting improvements that would benefit workers.

Consequently, gross tonnage limitation has a negative impact on safety and comfort as it penalises initiatives aimed at adding extra safety, comfort and quality improvements to ships. Changes that would modernise vessels and improve living and working conditions compete with fish hold volume and the volume of the engine room or fuel tanks. Alternative ways to calculate the gross tonnage capacity need to be developed to encourage the modernisation of vessels while keeping under control the fishing capacity.

Following social partners’ calls for change in this area, the South Western Waters Advisory Council has recently adopted an opinion in this direction. The opinion is available in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese on the SWWAC website.