New EU fund to help deliver CFP reform –

New EU fund to help deliver CFP reform Published:  05 December, 2011

THE European Commission has proposed a new fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020: the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

The fund will help deliver the ambitious objectives of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will help fishermen in the transition towards sustainable fishing, as well as coastal communities in the diversification of their economies. The fund will finance projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts. Red tape will be cut so that beneficiaries have easy access to financing.

Maria Damanaki, Commissioner in charge of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: “This new fund will increase economic growth and create jobs in the sector. No more money will be spent to build big vessels. Small scale fisheries and aquaculture will benefit from this budgetary greening of the Common Fisheries Policy.”

This new fund will replace the existing European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and a number of other instruments. The proposed envelope amounts to € 6.5 billion for the period 2014 to 2020.

Struan Stevenson, Conservative fisheries spokesman in the European Parliament, commented that the new system contains good and bad news – the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is intended to offer more-efficient and simpler to access for potential beneficiaries, including governments, enterprises, fishermen and coastal communities. It aims to support sustainable growth –  for natural resources and for local communities.

But Mr Stevenson, MEP for Scotland, said the overall funding pot of €6 billion was insufficient.

He explained: “That is only €6 billion for all of the EU maritime economy, of which fisheries is only a part. So compared to the €50 billion spent on Common Agricultural Policy that is not very much.”

He pointed to several welcome measures in the package, including more focus to be put on aquaculture, and said: “We need to invest more in research, development and innovation in this industry, as Europe is only 40 per cent self-sufficient in fish and we have to import the other 60 per cent. This means there is a fantastic opportunity to expand EU fish farming if we are prepared to provide the necessary financial support.”

He also welcomed the greening aspects of the EMFF and proposed investment aimed at better scientific input to fisheries and closer co-operation between scientists and fishermen.

He said: “Sustainable fisheries and the ecosystem approach are vital for healthy seas, healthy fish stocks and healthy fishing communities.

But one controversial item was a decision to end grants for decommissioning and to rely on the market to sort out fleet overcapacity in future: “The system they wish to implement to achieve this is called Transferable Fisheries Concessions – which the Common Fisheries Reform regulation proposes may be traded between Member States.

“This could lead to the wealthiest Spanish fishing companies buying up all the UK quota, and then landing their catch in Vigo rather than ports such as Peterhead and Fraserburgh. Such an outcome would devastate our fleet and our fragile fishing communities and will be vigorously opposed.

Louize Hill, Head of Marine & Fisheries at WWF’s European Policy commented: “After the poor performance of the EFF, subsidies are only justifiable if they help to end overfishing and stimulate the sustainable management of fisheries. In order to save jobs in the fisheries sector and make them profitable, we first need to restore and properly manage fish stocks and the environment on which they depend. Unfortunately, the EMFF proposal lacks the ambition to help transform Europe’s fisheries management and lay a solid basis for healthy and profitable fisheries in the future.

“While we welcome the removal of harmful subsidies that increase fishing capacity of the fleet, WWF is concerned about proposed allocations for modernisation of equipment and aquaculture. Strict safeguards are needed to prevent these funds supporting oversized fleets or harming the environment. In times of financial austerity the last thing citizens should be expected to do is pay to keep an unprofitable fishing sector afloat that continues to overexploit scarce natural resources.”