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EC Review the Common Fisheries Policy

EU - The European Commission today endorsed a paper put forward by Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg containing an analysis of the achievements and shortcomings of the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy further to its reform in 2002.

Joe Borg, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
Photo: Europa

While Commissioners agreed that the 2002 Reform package had done much to improve the way EU fisheries are managed, a number of challenges continue to exist. Short-term decision-making coupled with irresponsible behaviour by certain parts of the industry, continued to penalise those fishermen who act for the common good.

The result is a vicious circle which has undermined both the ecological balance of our oceans and the economic profitability of the sector. The Commission therefore proposes that a full review of the CFP should be launched immediately, in order to prepare the ground for a major reform of the institutional framework of European fisheries management.

Commissioner Borg commented: "There is no alternative to the Common Fisheries Policy when it comes to managing the mobile international resource that our fishing industry depends on. But, in its current form, the CFP does not encourage responsible behaviour by either fishermen or politicians.

"The management tools we use reward narrow-minded, short-term decision making, which has now undermined the sustainability of our fisheries. To produce a full diagnosis of what needs to change and determine a plan of action, will take time, and we need to involve all stakeholders fully in that process. That is why I have proposed that we launch a full review of the 2002 Reform as of now"

A number of real achievements made under the 2002 Reform has been highlighted by M. Borg, in particular: greater credibility and transparency of the scientific basis of policy, improved dialogue with stakeholders, a significant number of stocks brought under long-term management plans, and recent actions to deter and eliminate illegal fishing and to reduce discarding.

Despite these many positive steps, continuing obstacles to truly sustainable fishing in EU waters must be tackled, such as:

the overcapacity in the EU fleet: at present, the fleet is capable of catching between two and three times the maximum sustainable yield;

fishermen must be made responsible and accountable for the sustainable use of a public resource. the goal of ecological sustainability must be placed before economic and social sustainability, since it is the precondition which makes them possible;

there has to be a clearer hierarchy in the decision-making process between principles and implementation, so as to simplify regulation at EU level and encourage regional management solutions whenever possible;

the CFP will have to be aligned with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, which has recently come into force, and which obliges Member States to ensure the good environmental status of the seas under their jurisdiction by 2020;

Europe needs a joined-up approach to fisheries management, which would include onshore and market dimensions of the industry alongside the capture sector and aquaculture, in line with the EU's new Integrated Maritime Policy and its focus on sustainable growth in coastal regions.

The Commission will now launch a phase of analysis and consultation, which will provide the basis for the future reform process. An informal discussion will be held with Fisheries Ministers on 29 September in the margins of the Fisheries Council, based on a diagnosis document and policy options. Should the European Council then call on the Commission to start work on the reform of the CFP as part of its conclusions on Maritime Policy in December 2008, the Commission would then issue a full discussion document early in 2009 to provide a basis for broad consultation with Member States and stakeholders.

The Common Fisheries Policy was formally established in 1983, and has since then been subject to revision every ten years. The latest Reform was agreed in 2002, and is up for review at latest in 2012.