Latest update: 28/04/2023

Directive 2017/159/EU - Work in Fishing Convention

This Directive implements the agreement signed by European social partners concerning the implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (2007).

In 2007, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) adopted the Work in Fishing Convention (C188). The European social partners in the sea fisheries sector, Europêche and Cogeca on the employer’s side and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) on the trade union side, adopted in May 2013 an Agreement concerning the implementation of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention. Following the adoption of the agreement, the European social partners requested its implementation by Council decision (Council Directive), as provided for in Articles 154 and 155 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In 2016 the EU Council accepted the proposal which led to the publication of Council Directive (EU) 2017/159 of 19 December 2016 implementing the Agreement concerning the implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 of the International Labour Organisation, concluded on 21 May 2012 between the General Confederation of Agricultural Cooperatives in the European Union (Cogeca), the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF) and the Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the European Union (Europêche).

The Agreement as implemented by the Directive applies to all fishermen working in any capacity under a contract of employment or in an employment relationship on all fishing vessels engaged in commercial fishing.

The definitions of "fishing operation", "commercial fishing", "competent authority", "consultation", "(fishing vessel) owner ", "fisherman", "fisherman’s work agreement", "(fishing) vessel ", "gross tonnage (GT)",  "length (L)", "length between perpendiculars (LBP)", "length overall (LOA)", "skipper", "recruitment and placement service" and "private employment agency" can be found in the Annex.

The purpose of the Directive is to implement the Agreement so as to set out:

  • the responsibilities of fishing vessel owners, skippers and fishermen;
  • the minimum personal requirements for work on fishing vessels (minimum age, medical examination);
  • the conditions of service (manning, hours of work and rest, crew list, fisherman’s work agreement, repatriation, private labour market services);
  • occupational safety and health requirements (food and accommodation, health protection and medical care, protection in case of work-related sickness, injury or death, occupational safety and health and accident prevention);

One of the minimum requirements for work on board a fishing vessel is a valid medical certificate attesting to the fitness of fishermen to carry out their duties (article 7 of the Agreement). In 2021, the social partners, Europêche and the European Transport Workers' Federation (ETF), together with the International Maritime Health Association (IMHA) issued Guidelines on the medical examinations of fishers. The guidelines determine criteria for the medical fitness for fishers within the EU and include information concerning the occupational risks faced by fishers within their profession.

Member States shall have in force or bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with this Directive by 15 November 2019 at the latest. Moreover, Member States shall determine what penalties are applicable when national provisions enacted pursuant to this Directive are infringed or not met. Member States may maintain or introduce provisions more favourable to workers in the sea fishing sector than those laid down in this Directiv

The Agreement concerning the implementation of the Work in Fishing Convention (2007) of the International Labour Organisation

Read the full text of the Directive

National laws implementing this Directive


Further information
EU Commission - Final report on the Costs and benefits of a Council decision implementing the European sectoral social partners' agreement concerning the implementation of the work in fishing convention, 2007 of the ILO (2016)