Dutch fisheries catch some 450,000 tonnes of fish every year, generating € 386 million. The fisheries sector employs 20,000 people. 

Together with the fisheries sector the government aims to develop new catching methods to minimise environmental damage. Certified sustainable or organically-grown fish carry quality marks.

Types of fisheries

There are four types of professional fisheries:

  • North Sea fisheries are the largest and economically most important fisheries sector. North Sea fisheries mostly make use of cutters, relatively small sea fishing boats, to fish for sole, plaice and other fish by dragging large nets over the seabed (beam trawling). More sustainable fishing methods are being introduced.
  • Coastal fisheries occur in the zone from the beach out to 12 nautical miles (about 21 kilometres) off the coast. They mostly catch mussels (Zeeland), shrimp (Friesland and Groningen) and oysters (Oosterschelde and Grevelingenmeer).
  • Inland waters fishing takes place on the Ijsselmeer, the lakes around IJsselmeer, the large rivers, lakes and other her waters, mostly in Friesland, North Holland, Zeeland and Zuid-Holland. Most fish caught is eel, pike (perch) and smelt.
  • Sea fisheries: beyond the North Sea freeze trawlers (large automated fishing vessels with instant deep-freeze facilities) catch herring, mackerel and other fish in European and African waters and in the Pacific Ocean. All catch is cleaned on board and frozen.

A modern and healthy fisheries sector

The government aims to make the sector more sustainable and to guarantee fishermen's future incomes. The Netherlands and the European Union have earmarked €120 million for the period 2007-2013 to innovate and reorganise the fishing industry.

The funds are used for a variety of activities, such as the Fisheries Innovation Platform. This platform supports innovating ideas, such as the development of a computer programme that helps fishermen cast their nets as efficiently as possible to save fuel and reduce by-catches.

Sustainable fishing

Overfishing poses a threat to life in sea and inland waters. In response, the government works with the fishing sector to develop new fishing methods that will sustain the economy and minimise damage to the environment. Examples include:

  • Pulse trawling. This is a novel way to catch sole and plaice. Instead of chains, pulse trawling uses small electrical pulses directed at the seabed to startle plaice and sole and allow them to be caught. The seabed is left intact and there is no damage to seaweeds, crustaceans or other organisms.
  • Mussel seed capture installations (MZIs). It has been agreed that the mussel sector will transfer to other fishing methods, mostly mussel seed capture installations. The transition should be complete in 2020. The mussel seed capture installations enable the capture and storage of seed on net or rope constructions. The seed does not need to be fished on the seabed. It is then transported to the mussel resource beds. Experiments with these installations in recent years have shown promising economic and ecological results.
  • Sustainable fish farms. While fish farms meet about half of the global demand for human consumption, the number of farms in the Netherlands has been falling for years. The government wishes to stimulate sustainable farm fishing in the Netherlands and has set up a fish farming action plan in collaboration with scientists and the farmed fish sector to make it easier to get subsidies or a bank guarantee. 

Ban on fishing for eel and Chinese crab

On 1 April 2011 a ban on fishing for eel and Chinese crab was introduced for Dutch waters where excessive levels of dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) had been found in eels and crabs. Safety standards do not allow the marketing of eel and Chinese crab for health reasons. The ban will apply the whole year and to professional and amateur fishermen alike.

Fish logo

Sustainably caught fish carries quality marks issued by organisations that verify compliance with certification regulations.

Common fisheries policy

The European Member States have a common fisheries policy to promote a healthy and sustainable fishing sector. The European Union aims to maintain marine resources by establishing, for each Member State, annual catch quotas for particular fish varieties.

To avoid overfishing, the European Union has introduced:

  • Catch limits
    Every year, the EU determines the fish quota for particular fish varieties. This is referred to as the Total Allowable Catch (TAC);
  • Effort limitations
    The EU regulates the maximum number of days at sea for fisheries;
  • Technical measures
    Technical measures determine how and what fisheries can catch.

The Member States are individually responsible for implementing supervisory controls. Fisheries in the Netherlands:

  • must be authorised to fish;
  • must not exceed the allotted quota and days at sea;
  • must fish where they are permitted to fish;
  • must observe technical regulations.