The plans will secure both fish stocks and fishermen's livelihood for the future, while putting an end to overfishing and depletion of fish stocks. The reform will introduce a decentralised approach to science-based fisheries management by region and sea basin, and introduce better governance standards in the EU and on the international level through sustainable fisheries agreements.
When presenting the proposals, Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said: "Action is needed now to get all our fish stocks back into a healthy state to preserve them for present and future generations.
"Only under this precondition can fishermen continue to fish and earn a decent living out of their activities.
"This means that we have to manage each stock wisely, harvesting what we can but keeping the stock healthy and productive for the future. This will bring us higher catches, a sound environment and a secure seafood supply. If we get this reform right, fishermen and coastal communities will be better off in the long run.
"And all Europeans will have a wider choice of fresh fish, both wild and farm produced."
Sustainability and long-term solutions are the key points of today's proposals which set out the following elements:
- All fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015, which is in line with the commitments the EU has undertaken internationally.
- An ecosystem approach will be adopted for all fisheries, with long-term management plans based on the best available scientific advice.
- The waste of food resources and the economic losses caused by throwing unwanted fish back into the sea, a practice known as “discarding”, will be phased-out. Fishermen will be obliged to land all the fish that they catch.
- The proposals also include clear targets and timeframes to stop overfishing; market-based approaches such as individual tradable catch shares; support measures for small-scale fisheries; improved data collection; and strategies to promote sustainable aquaculture in Europe.
- Consumers will be able to get better information on the quality and sustainability of the products they buy.
- General policy principles and goals will be prescribed from Brussels, while Member States will have to decide and apply the most appropriate conservation measures. In addition to simplifying the process, this will favour solutions tailored to regional and local needs.
- Operators throughout the fishing sector will have to make their own economic decisions to adapt fleet size to fishing possibilities. Fishermen's organisations will play a stronger role in steering market supply and increasing fishermen's profits.
- Financial support will only be granted to environmentally-friendly initiatives contributing to smart and sustainable growth. A strict control mechanism will rule out any perverse funding of illicit activities or overcapacity.
- Within international bodies and in its relations with third countries, the EU will act abroad as it does at home and promote good governance and a sound management of the sea in the rest of the world.
However, the Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said the EU plans to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) do not go nearly far enough, although the opportunity to fix the current broken and damaging regime has been welcomed.
Mr Lochhead said: "The Common Fisheries Policy has taken decision making over our vast and rich fisheries away from Scotland and into the hands of Brussels, to the severe detriment of our fishing communities and fisheries conservation. That's why we must grasp this once in a generation chance for radical root-and-branch reform of European fisheries policy.
"I welcome the fact the EU has put forward long-awaited proposals for change, however they need to be a lot more radical if Brussels is not to repeat the many mistakes that have caused so much damage in recent decades.
"Thankfully, there is the opportunity to improve these initial proposals during the tough negotiations that lie ahead over the next two years. With implementation of a new policy planned for 2013, it's critical that Scotland's voice is heard in Europe so we can influence its development and bring our expertise to the table.
"I'm pleased that the meaningful conservation of stocks is set to be at the heart of a reformed CFP, with the ecological and economic madness of the discarding of marketable fish - currently enforced on our fishermen by the CFP - to be addressed. I am concerned, however, that a one-step move to a blanket ban on discards could prove counter-productive. Instead, we should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place.
"There is also a huge threat to Scotland lurking within these proposals because, alarmingly, the Commission is advocating an expansion in the international trading of fishing quotas. Selling quota to Europe's highest bidders will erode Scotland's historic rights which in turn could spell doom for our fragile fishing communities. Our fishing rights would end up with faceless overseas-based multinationals, rather than in the hands of future generations of Scots fishermen.
"The Commission's proposal for regionalisation is a welcome start but they don't go far enough. In the complex mixed-fishery of the North Sea it makes sense for Scotland and other nations to have more control over their own fisheries, working in partnership with neighbouring maritime nations."
A coalition of the UK’s leading environmental and conservation organisations has now urged the UK Government and other EU states to ensure the European marine environment and fishing industry have a sustainable future, and to act before it is too late, in the wake of teh Common Fisheries Policy announcement.
The coalition including WWF, RSPB, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society (MCS), ClientEarth, nef (new economics foundation), and OCEAN2012 made the call in response to the publication by the European Commission of its proposals to reform the ‘broken’ Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
They say the current proposal fails to:
- Put the environment first for people’s sake
- Provide tools to reduce capacity in line with the available resources
- Make access to resources conditional on social and environmental criteria
The NGOs have asked the UK Government to ensure a Common Fisheries Policy that delivers rather than undermines sustainability.