European Commission makes fisheries rules more user friendly Published: 12 December, 2005
LAST week the European Commission claims to have taken another major step towards putting in place simpler measures under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by adopting an Action Plan for streamlining and improving fisheries legislation over the period 2006-2008. The plan is part of the Commission-wide process aimed at encouraging better regulation. Detailed proposals were drawn up on the basis of the Council’s Conclusions on simplifying the CFP and an extensive consultation process with Member States and the fishing industry. The plan identifies a series of priority initiatives for the next three years concentrated on two key areas – conservation and control. This is the first such sectoral action plan to be adopted by the Commission and will lead the way in concrete application of the simplification strategy not only in the fisheries sector, but in European legislation in general.
The aims of the CFP simplification exercise are:
* to ensure that legislative texts are clear and unambiguous;
* to ensure that both fishermen and national administrators have access to the information they need in a concise and easily-understood form and
* to reduce the burden of work that currently falls upon these two groups of stakeholders as a result of unnecessary complications in regulation.
To this end, as well as committing itself to ensuring that all new legislation and all instruments currently under review will in future meet these criteria, the Commission has identified a number of regulations currently in force as priority targets for restructuring and revision. These include instruments which deal with: TACs and quotas, and fishing effort; technical measures for the protection of young fish; collection and management of data; monitoring measures, including computerised monitoring systems; reporting obligations; and authorisations to fish outside EU waters. By focusing on conservation and control, the Commission hopes to improve working conditions for both fishermen and public officials in the fisheries sector thus encouraging the effective, efficient and transparent application of the Common Fisheries Policy. This simplification and improvement process goes hand-in-hand with the Commission’s undertaking to improve consultation with all stakeholders in the fisheries sector. The Action Plan, therefore, includes specific commitments to earlier and fuller consultation, and to greater stakeholder involvement not only in shaping policy, but in ensuring that fishermen in particular are kept fully informed of their rights and obligations. The Action Plan also confirms other recent initiatives taken by the Commission as part of the reform of the CFP, including: the adoption of a multi-annual approach to conservation strategy; targeting conservation instruments by region or by fishery; taking better account of interactions between fishing and the environment in research and data collection; and extending the use of advanced technologies, including IT systems, in control, monitoring and reporting.
Many of the detailed proposals laid down in the plan stem from general principles which the Commission has already begun to implement in new legislation. Thus, for instance, the Proposals for 2006 TACs and quotas for the Baltic Sea was separated from the general TACs and quotas proposal covering other Community waters, and was thus tabled in Council a month before the usual date for commencing the annual TACs and quotas process. Similarly, the recent proposal on technical measures for the Baltic Sea illustrates what can be achieved in practice when all parties concerned are committed to making simplification a reality.
The 2006-2008 Action Plan sets out an ambitious work programme for the Commission and its partners over the next three years. When translated into practice, it will represent a major advance towards a Common Fisheries Policy which is not only easier to understand and easier to implement, but which will be more likely to achieve its twin goals – a profitable and sustainable European fishing industry, based on healthy fish stocks and marine environment.
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