EU launches fishing consultation –

EU launches fishing consultation Published:  22 April, 2009

Today, the European Commission adopted a Green Paper on the future of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy. The paper analyses the shortcomings of the current Policy and launches a broad public consultation on how these shortcomings should be tackled.

Fishermen and other interested parties from the sector, but also scientists, civil society and interested citizens, are invited to respond and have their say until December 31 on the future face of European fisheries.

The consultation is the first step of the process which should bring about a radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg said: ‘We are asking questions even on the fundamentals of the current policy and should leave no stone unturned. We are not looking for just another reform. It is time to design a modern, simple and sustainable system for managing fisheries in the EU, which is able to last well into the 21st century.’

The purpose of the Green Paper adopted today is twofold: raise awareness of the challenges faced by the sector in recent years; and elicit a public response which can grow into a new, innovative and more consensual approach to fisheries regulation. It raises questions such as: How can we ensure the long-term sustainability and the viability of fisheries? How can overall fleet capacity be adapted while addressing the social concerns faced by coastal communities? How can a culture of compliance be further developed? How best can the CFP contribute to fisheries sustainability beyond EU waters?

The paper analyses all the facets of fisheries policy today and explains why some problems persist despite the progress made since the reform of 2002. One of the main problems is the depleted state of European fish stocks: 88 per cent of stocks are overfished (against a global average of 25 per cent) and 30 per cent are ‘outside safe biological limits’, i.e. they cannot reproduce at normal rate because the parenting population is too depleted. Yet in many fisheries we keep fishing two or three times more than what fish stocks can sustain. This is mostly as a result of fleet overcapacity. Such overcapacity is in fact economically inefficient because not only does it deplete stocks but it also constantly drives the industry’s profits down. Solutions need to be found to restore the worst-off stocks and at the same time guarantee that fish can continue to be a reliable source of revenue for fishermen.

Above and beyond overcapacity, the paper identifies four other structural shortcomings of the present approach:

the lack of precise policy objectives, especially with regard to ecological responsibility and integration with general maritime issues;

a decision-making system that is too centralised and focused on short-term solutions which more often than not undermine long-term sustainability;

a framework that does not give sufficient responsibility to the industry;

the absence of political will towards compliance with the fishing limitations.

These issues have to be considered in a context where Europe imports two-thirds of its demand in fisheries products.

The Commission is concerned that if a better environmental sustainability of fishing is not achieved in the coming years, the consequence will be impoverished seas and an economically unviable fishing industry. If however the next reform projects the Common Fisheries Policy into the 21st century, the benefits will not just be limited to fishermen or coastal communities, but will also be shared by Europe’s citizens.

Although the Commission is only legally bound to review some parts of the CFP by 2012, the prevailing situation, particularly as regards stocks and fleet overcapacity, has convinced it of the need to launch the reform process already now. The consultation launched today will close on December 31 and the Commission will sum up its results in the first half of 2010. After further consultation with stakeholders, the Commission will then prepare an impact assessment report and develop a proposal for a new basic regulation. This could then be presented to the European parliament and council early in 2011, with a view for adoption in 2012.