22nd Feb 2024


Inching towards a fisheries deal

  • Will member states meet parliament's demand half way? (Photo: Bruno de Giusti)

As EU fish ministers meet in Brussels today and tomorrow (13-14 May) the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is on the brink of a crucial step in its reform process.

This is where things stand: on 6 February, an overwhelming majority of MEPs supported the rapporteur on the file, German centre-left euro-deputy Ulrike Rodust, in adopting ambitious reform. In particular, they backed ensuring that fish stocks are allowed to recover to above sustainable levels and putting an end to the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish, which can represent up to 80 percent of the catch in some fisheries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

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

... or subscribe as a group

Two weeks later, member states finalised their own position. But their agreement makes as few changes as possible to the current way fisheries are managed, and postpones the implementation of all the most urgent measures to recover fish stocks.

Since then, the two institutions have been holding trialogue meetings, in which the parliament (led by Rodust) and the council (led by Irish minister Simon Coveney) go through their respective positions, article by article, in order to figure out how to reconcile them.

Unfortunately, these meetings have not been very fruitful, with Coveney only able to negotiate within the limits of the February general approach.

Monday's meeting is about giving a new mandate to the Irish presidency to keep negotiating with the parliament on behalf of the member states, and to possibly seal the deal before the end of June on the most crucial and controversial elements of the reform: the stock recovery target, the discard ban, the management of fishing overcapacity and regionalisation.

These four elements are the very core of the reform.

The previous policy failed to ensure the sustainable exploitation of fish stocks to such an extent that half of fish stocks in the Atlantic and more than three quarters in the Mediterranean are still overfished.

This has led to job losses and the overuse of public money to compensate for these losses. This in turn results in mismanagement. At the same time, the lack of selectivity in fishing practices has led to discards - the catching and throwing back at sea of millions of tonnes of fish every year.

A myriad of potential outcomes

There are several possible end game scenarios, which branch out of two major outcomes: if the council does not validate a new mandate, it means they are sticking to the general approach they agreed in February and will simply forward it to the parliament to initiate the second reading.

If this occurs, it will mean that the trialogue negotiations have failed.

A second possibility is that the council does agree to a new mandate. But it is impossible to know at this point how far this mandate will go: it can range from slightly better than the February general approach (but still very bad), to much better.

It will then be up to Rodust to assess what to do with what the council is putting on the table: either continue negotiating or go to a second reading.

A last chance opportunity

On Tuesday, the curtain will rise on one of the last acts of the CFP reform, a process that started almost four years ago when the European Commission published its green paper and acknowledged the failure of the current policy.

While the outcome is still unsure, it may soon be in sight.

What is at stake is the future of European fisheries and fishermen. But it is also about what kind of European Union we want.

Member states have been at the helm of fisheries policy since the beginning of the EU, and have been unable to properly defend the interests of the general public by stopping the over-exploitation of marine resources in Europe.

With this reform, it must for the first time work with a new, equal partner - the European Parliament. The parliament does not have the same record of years of bad management, is more transparent and has more legitimacy.

Since the beginning, the parliament has taken ownership of the reform and has shown its determination to achieve a good outcome for the reform, by overwhelmingly supporting Rodust’s report and by repeating its commitment at several important votes after that. MEPs want good reform and they have the right to ask for member states to meet them half-way.

The writer is executive director for Oceana in Europe


The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

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

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.

Fisheries reform: Time to draw in the net

Achieving healthy fish stocks globally was a key challenge flowing from Rio+20 and will be a central litmus test for realizing an inclusive Green economy.

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

EU-Israel trade agreement must be on table to stop Rafah attack

The EU-Israel association trade agreement enabled €46.8bn of trade last year. Exports rose for both parties by around 20 percent in 2022. As the bloc's foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said: "Yes, we have the capacity to influence [Israel]."

Latest News

  1. EU auditors: rule-of-law budget protections only partial success
  2. EU's €723bn Covid recovery fund saw growth, but doubts remain
  3. Von der Leyen rejects extremist parties, leaves door open to ECR
  4. Russian oligarchs failed to get off EU blacklist
  5. Podcast: Navalny, Ian Bremmer and "more Europe"
  6. Only Palestinians paying thousands of dollars leave Gaza
  7. Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?
  8. African leaders unveil continent-wide plan to buy medicines

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us