Tuesday

29th Nov 2022

New EU policy aims to reduce overfishing by 2015

  • Environmental groups are sceptical the measures will help against overfishing (Photo: photo_gram)

In a frank admission that the current EU fisheries policy is "not working", the responsible commissioner Maria Damanaki on Wednesday (13 July) unveiled a new set of measures aimed at reducing overfishing by 2015.

"Our current system is not working in favour of sustainability, this is absolutely sure," Damanaki said during a press conference, noting that 75 percent of the stocks are being overfished and a third of that is in a "worrying state".

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

In addition, two thirds of the EU's fish consumption is being covered by imports from countries outside the EU, over which the bloc has even less of a say in terms of taking care of the species.

"If we don't reform, only eight out of our 136 stocks will be sustainable ten years from now. We have to break this vicious cycle," the Greek politician said, while noting that the blame is equally shared by the EU commission and member states not wanting to reform.

Under the proposal, which still needs approval of member states and the European Parliament, a legal obligation to have fishing of each species not exceed its replacement rate should be put in place by 2015.

Transition phases, compensations and subsidies to cushion the loss in jobs will be part of the package and agreed upon at a later stage.

"The problem [of job losses] is not created by the reform, the problem is already there: Fisheries are not profitable any more. There is simply not enough fish there to catch it," the commissioner said.

The proposal will seek to ban discards, dead or injured fish that are thrown back into the sea after being caught because they are too small to sell or belong to a different species.

"We need to stop discards, which in some areas represent 60 percent of the catches. We will change the system so that all catches are counted against quotas," Damanaki said.

The decision-making process of establishing fishing rules at the highest level will also be changed, so that regions will be given the power to regulate themselves on technical details such as the net width allowed for fishermen in the English Channel.

"The European Commission will intervene only when there is no agreement at regional level," the commissioner explained.

One of the more controversial proposals, which saw "lots of discussions" among the 27 commissioners is the idea of having "tradable concessions" which fishing companies or associations can sell in order to reduce overcapacity of the European fishing fleet.

It would mean that fishermen or fishing companies which have a licence to exploit the stocks of a certain country are allowed to sell these concessions to each other.

Citing examples in the Nordic countries, Damanaki said the system would work "under strict rules" left to each member state to set out. She did admit, however, that one of the concerns expressed by other colleagues in the commission is that it would "be abused by the aggression of markets".

Green MEPs and environmental groups however said that the plan is not bold enough to tackle the systemic problems of EU's fisheries policy.

"The Commission's proposal to set up a market-based system to determine who has the right to fish is nothing short of scandalous," Spanish Green MEP Raul Romeva said in a statement.

Speculation and the concentration of fishing rights in the hands of big companies will be a direct consequence of this policy, in Romeva's view. "Worse, if fishing permits are granted based on historical participation in the fishery, the system will reward those who have been most responsible for over-fishing in the past."

Greenpeace and WWF also criticised the commission for contemplating a market scheme.

"There is no ‘one size fits all' solution for the overcapacity of the EU fleet given the variety of fisheries that exist in Europe. Nor will ‘the market' automatically solve this problem," Tony Long from WWF commented.

Opinion

EU's new fisheries policy: throwing a lifeline to the oceans

European consumers eat nearly twice the fish that our oceans can provide, our over-subsidized fleet is too big, too powerful and not selective enough, writes Xavier Pastor ahead of the talks to reform the Common Fisheries Policy.

Feature

EU subsidies fuel Spain’s ravenous fleet

Decades of overfishing have left Europe’s fish stocks in peril and its fishermen in poverty. It’s an impasse paid for by EU taxpayers. Yet a proposed revision of the EU’s fishing law, hailed as sweeping reform, is rapidly losing momentum.

Opinion

Sea of subsidies

Continuing to spend public funds on inefficient measures will only push our fisheries deeper into crisis and further damage the state of the stocks, writes Xavier Pastor.

Investigation

Asbestos — two to three times more deadly than known

Where once working men in heavy industry were diagnosed with cancers related to a more direct exposure to asbestos, now women in professions such as teaching, nursing and other occupations are being diagnosed, as well as young people.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP27: Food systems transformation for climate action
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region and the African Union urge the COP27 to talk about gender equality
  3. International Sustainable Finance CentreJoin CEE Sustainable Finance Summit, 15 – 19 May 2023, high-level event for finance & business
  4. Friedrich Naumann Foundation European DialogueGender x Geopolitics: Shaping an Inclusive Foreign Security Policy for Europe
  5. Obama FoundationThe Obama Foundation Opens Applications for its Leaders Program in Europe
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBA lot more needs to be done to better protect construction workers from asbestos

Latest News

  1. Post-COP27 optimism — non-Western voices are growing
  2. Legal scholars: Prosecuting Putin 'legally problematic'
  3. A missed opportunity in Kazakhstan
  4. EU's Hungary funds, China, energy, and Frontex This WEEK
  5. Sweden says 'no' to EU asylum relocation pledges
  6. The 'proof' problem with EU sanctions — and how to fix it
  7. The EU gas cap: will the bottle ever be 'uncorked'?
  8. Enough talk, only rights can eliminate patriarchal violence

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Committee of the RegionsRe-Watch EURegions Week 2022
  2. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  4. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  6. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us