Vote on fishing sector subsidies brings CFP finish line in sight.

Today, the European Parliament approved the final dossier of the comprehensive reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) is a € 6.5 billion fund that will implement the CFP for the period of 2014 – 2020. While the EMFF agreement must still be validated by the Council of Ministers, the Parliament’s vote brings the finish line in sight.Oceana applauds the Parliament’s enormous accomplishment during the reform process of ensuring that the new CFP will restore the health of our seas, but was less impressed with them when it came to outlining the terms of the funding mechanism. Indeed, in the case of the EMFF, several Member of Parliament, faced with the upcoming elections, and wanting to push financial handouts to fishermen to boost support, disappointingly tried to introduce harmful subsidies such as funding for new boats, which been banned in the European Union since 2004 because of their direct link to overfishing. “The European Parliament proved itself to be a force for environmental good during negotiations for the CFP, however in the case of the EMFF we saw more extreme differences of opinion: both the most environmentally destructive proposal –subsidies to build new boats- and the most beneficial proposal –to double funding for data collection and control measures– came from the  Parliament. Fortunately the proposal to fund new boats was rejected by the Plenary,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.The new CFP sets very clear objectives to rebuild fish stocks, reduce the impact of fishing on the ecosystem through better selectivity of fishing practices, and introduce a discard ban. Improvements in the funding mechanism will ensure that financial assistance is made conditional – for both beneficiaries and Member States – upon compliance with CFP rules, and will be denied to operators with a record of illegal fishing. Environmentally harmful subsidies, such as funding for new engines, were unfortunately reintroduced in the fund, but they will be subject to clear budget limits.“Member States will in fact make the final decision on EMFF investments, and could therefore decide to exclude harmful subsidies from the funding possibilities they will provide to their fishing sectors. If they are truly committed to the new CFP and its principles, excluding these subsidies should be a no-brainer,” added Vanya Vulperhorst, policy officer at Oceana in Europe.The CFP has been in place since 1983 and is renewed every 10 years; however this was the first time the Parliament stood on equal footing with the Council of Ministers. The reform process was started in September 2008 when the Commission announced the failure of the 2002 policy, highlighting the dire state of European fish stocks, and calling out the habit of narrow-minded, short-term decision-making, which perpetuated the vicious cycle of overfishing, unprofitability and overcapacity.

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