Sunday

21st Jan 2018

Opinion

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

  • European consumers eat nearly twice the fish that our oceans can provide. (Photo: EU commission)

Fisheries policy has never been the type of issue that lives in the spotlight. Yet we now find ourselves at a time when what is at stake with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is nothing short of the future of European fisheries.

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, and according to the Commission, 91 percent of fish stocks in Europe could be at risk in the next decade if nothing is done to reverse this trend.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

It is clear that this reform will affect everyone from fishermen to consumers, and from policy makers to their constituents.

The Commission’s CFP reform proposal is far from perfect, but it is a laudable effort that represents an improvement over the 2002 policy: it attempts to strengthen the environmental pillar in its list of objectives, imposes the obligation to implement the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management, and focuses on longer-term management.

It also incorporates the objective that by 2015 all stocks be exploited above levels which can produce the Maximum Sustainable Yield. So far, so good – but that’s about where the good news ends.

Unfortunately, the Commission has proposed a some what conflicting policy that is torn between its conservation and exploitation objectives. For example, the proposal describes a CFP that is focused on the long term, as is evidenced by the support of long-term management plans, yet it sets no objectives past 2015, which let’s be honest, might as well be tomorrow.

Lack of a roadmap

Given that the EU is bound by the Marine Strategy Framework Directive to achieve good environmental status in its marine waters by 2020, the lack of a roadmap to get there is disheartening.

This CFP should be, in essence, an environmental policy, wherein environmental considerations are a prerequisite to social and economic sustainability. Marine conservation is simply not the enemy of fisheries management, and it is critical that the industry, EU member states and all other stakeholders understand this.

The ecosystem-based approach (EBA) reconciles fisheries management with an ecosystem perspective, aiming at the long term viability of exploitation through the equilibrium and health of the ecosystem.

The EBA is what we must see properly implemented into any reform if we truly wish to see positive change in both the industry and our seas. At this stage in the debate, EBA sounds more like a buzzword. Everyone is talking about it, so it was included in the objectives of the CFP proposal, but because no one knows exactly what it means, no mechanism for its implementation was included.

What it in fact means is shifting from management based only on fish stocks to one based on the entirety of the ecosystem, thereby broadening the current basic management to incorporate, for example the interactions of targeted species in the food chain, or the resilience of each ecosystem impacted.

This will be a true challenge in the coming months as negotiations ramp up, but if it is properly done, it can change the future of fisheries management in Europe for the better.

Ending over exploitation of fish stocks

The first step towards implementing this approach is a simple one, but it is also one that we in Europe have failed to take time and again: ending the over exploitation of our fish stocks.

Our first priority should be to adapt the amount we take out of the sea to the availability of the resource. In Europe over the past 10 years, 41% of scientific advice has been ignored by fisheries ministers when setting fishing opportunities for our fleets, putting not only our stocks and marine ecosystems in jeopardy, but also the future of the communities that depend on them.

The Commission’s proposal makes a brave attempt to stop the political bargaining over TACs and quotas by requiring that fishing opportunities be set “in accordance with scientific advice.”

The reduction of overcapacity in the EU’s fishing fleet is also indispensable to any attempt at reversing the downward spiral. However the Commission’s proposal to create a “Transferable Fishing Concessions” scheme will lead to nothing but the concentration of fishing rights ownership in the hands of large companies without any means by which to monitor or control what is happening with these rights.

The only way to truly end overcapacity is to impose legally binding capacity reduction targets and eliminate harmful subsidies.

The current proposal has a way to go before it can effectively tackle the problem at hand. Sadly, those who refuse to see beyond their short term economic incentives are seeking to water-down the proposal’s already weak environmental focus. There is much work ahead, and considering that this may be one of the last opportunities to bring our oceans back, the upcoming months of negotiations are certainly daunting.

The writer is the Executive Director of Oceana in Europe

New EU policy aims to reduce overfishing by 2015

In a frank admission that the current EU fisheries policy is "not working", the responsible commissioner Maria Damanaki on Wednesday unveiled a new set of measures aimed at reducing overfishing by 2015. Environmental groups are sceptical that the plan will work.

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.

EU bans practice of chopping off shark fins

The European Commission has announced a full ban on "shark finning" - the practice in which fishermen cut off the dorsal fin of a shark and throw it back into the water, often while it is still alive.

Morocco expels EU fishing boats

Morocco has told all EU fishing boats to immediately get out of its waters after MEPs scotched a bilateral aid agreement in a row over Western Sahara.

EU fisheries reform losing momentum

After a promising start, fundamental reform of EU fisheries polices has lost momentum but it is not too late to repair some of the damage to the engine room of the 2012 reform.

MEPs back end to fish discard 'madness'

MEPs have voted in more eco-friendly rules on fish discards as part of a package to reform the EU's much-maligned common fisheries policy

Ten Commandments to overcome the EU's many crises

A series of missteps - from the faulty institutional infrastructure of the euro, to the migration crisis - have left the EU battered and in near crisis. Here are ten steps to re-democratise the union.

EU's 'old men' must pressure Poland on abortion rights

Despite fresh crackdowns on Poland's already restrictive abortion laws, EU commission president Juncker did not raise the issue with the new Polish PM Morawiecki - perhaps because it was an all-male event?

News in Brief

  1. Germany confirms attendance at air quality summit
  2. Nearly half of 'fixed' Dieselgate cars show problems
  3. YouTube, Twitter, Facebook up hate speech deletion
  4. UK mulls bridge to France
  5. German far-right float anti-asylum bill
  6. EU Parliament to investigate glyphosate-decision process
  7. 'Mutagenesis' falls outside EU's GMO rules, says EU top lawyer
  8. Decision on Polish MEP's Nazi-era slur postponed

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Solutions for Sustainable Cities: New Grants Awarded for Branding Projects
  2. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersOresund Inspires Other EU Border Regions to Work Together to Generate Growth
  4. Mission of China to the EUTrade Between China, Belt and Road Countries up 15%
  5. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Calls on EU to Sanction Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Expel Ambassadors
  6. Dialogue PlatformRoundtable on "Political Islam, Civil Islam and The West" 31 January
  7. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement and Same-Sex Couples in Romania – Case Update!
  8. EU2017EEEstonia Completes First EU Presidency, Introduced New Topics to the Agenda
  9. Bio-Based IndustriesLeading the Transition Towards a Post-Petroleum Society
  10. ACCAWelcomes the Start of the New Bulgarian Presidency
  11. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li and President Tusk Stress Importance of Ties at ASEM Summit
  12. EU2017EEVAT on Electronic Commerce: New Rules Adopted

Latest News

  1. Middle East, Messi and missing MEPs on the agenda This WEEK
  2. Instagram and Google Plus join EU anti-hate speech drive
  3. EU wants 'entrepreneurship' in education systems
  4. UK loses EU satellite centre to Spain
  5. Pay into EU budget for market access, Macron tells May
  6. Ethiopian regime to get EU migrants' names
  7. EU to lend Greece up to €7bn more next week
  8. Nato prepares to take in Macedonia

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressChair of EU Parliament Working Group on Antisemitism Condemns Wave of Attacks
  2. Counter BalanceA New Study Challenges the Infrastructure Mega Corridors Agenda
  3. Dialogue PlatformThe Gülen Community: Who to Believe - Politicians or Actions?" by Thomas Michel
  4. Plastics Recyclers Europe65% Plastics Recycling Rate Attainable by 2025 New Study Shows
  5. European Heart NetworkCommissioner Andriukaitis' Address to EHN on the Occasion of Its 25th Anniversary
  6. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  7. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  8. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  10. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  11. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  12. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap