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EU Fisheries Council Meet on Modern Agendas

by the Fish Site Editor
18 November 2008, at 12:00am

EU - The EU Agriculture & Fisheries Council will meet in Brussels today, Wednesday and Thursday to discuss current agendas and serious issues affecting the industry. The meeting will be held under the Presidency of Michel Barnier, French Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.

Strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture – exchange of views

In 2002 the Commission adopted a Strategy for the sustainable development of European Aquaculture, to provide political stimulus for the emerging European industry. Since then, considerable progress has been achieved in advancing the sustainability, safety and quality of EU aquaculture production. Despite these efforts, however, EU production has stagnated over the past years (with the exception of marine fin fish farming), even as the aquaculture industry has continued to grow at a very high rate in the rest of the world. In 2007, the Commission launched an extensive consultation to identify the main challenges still facing the EU aquaculture sector, as the basis for elaborating an updated strategy.

Council will hold a preliminary exchange of views on the basis of a questionnaire from the French presidency, focusing among other themes on the need for simplification of the current regulatory framework at both EU and national levels, and the potential benefits of a more integrated approach to policy making.

Review of the cod recovery plan – political agreement

Council will discuss the Commission's proposal for an amendment of the cod recovery plan which has been in place since 2005, with a view to reaching political agreement. Recent scientific advice from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) concludes that the current measures have been inadequate to reduce fishing pressure on cod to the point where the stock can recover. Of the four cod stocks concerned, only North Sea cod has shown some limited signs of recovery.

The main changes proposed by the Commission include new objectives based on limiting the amount of fish removed from the sea by fishing rather than on targeting defined amounts of cod in the stock concerned, simplification of the fishing effort management system and a more flexible approach in adapting the rate of fishing pressure reduction to different stages of recovery. There will also be specific mechanisms to encourage the reduction of discards and to encourage the application of cod-avoidance programmes. It is being proposed that the plan be extended to cover the Celtic Sea cod stock. The Commission's proposal is based on the collective experience of implementing the plan over the last three years, and on the opinions of stakeholders as summarised in the symposium on cod recovery held in March 2007. The Commission is also discussing the proposed amendments with Norway, with whom this stock is jointly managed.

The debate in Council is expected to focus on regional aspects of the approach, the proposed fishing mortality targets, and effort management for fleets which do not target cod.

Bilateral agreements with Norway – exchange of views

The EU and Norway have a bilateral Fisheries Agreement since 1980, covering the fisheries on joint stocks in the North Sea. Some of these stocks are jointly managed (cod, haddock, herring, plaice, saithe and whiting), while others such as anglerfish, horse mackerel, Norway pout and sandeel are not. Annual Total Allowable Catches (TACs) are set jointly by the EU and Norway for the jointly managed stocks. The reciprocal exchange of quotas needs to be in overall balance across the Agreement.

Following their exchange of views in October, the Commission will inform Council of progress in the first round of negotiations held in early November, and there will be a discussion on the approach to be taken during the remainder of the negotiations.

Adaptation of cod quotas allocated to Poland in the Baltic Sea – information from the Commission

In April 2008, Council adopted a regulation to adapt the cod fishing quotas allocated to Poland in the eastern Baltic over the period 2008-2011. Based on official catch reports, the Polish quota for eastern Baltic cod in 2007 was substantially exceeded because of deficient control in a context of fleet overcapacity. The Polish authorities subsequently committed themselves to remedy this situation, by taking adequate action to improve control and enforcement in this fishery, as well as reducing fleet overcapacity.

In line with the provisions adopted last April, the Commission will inform the Council of the progress made by Poland in 2008 towards improving control and enforcement and adapting the capacity of its fleet.

Reform of the CFP control system – exchange of views

Last Friday the Commission proposed a new Council Regulation to create a completely modernized system for inspection, monitoring, control, surveillance and enforcement of the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy throughout the market chain, from net to plate. Harmonised inspection procedures and higher standards would ensure uniform implementation of control policy at national level, while taking account of the diversity and specific characteristics of different fleets. There will be measures to promote a culture of compliance throughout the sector, including simplification of the regulatory framework, and the introduction of harmonised deterrent sanctions. The capacity of the Commission to intervene to ensure that the rules of the CFP are being effectively implemented and enforced by the Member States will also be strengthened. In general, all aspects of the control and monitoring of fisheries activities would be simplified and made more efficient by the new rules.

The Commission will present the proposal to Council and an initial exchange of views on the Commission's proposal will be held.

Oral report from the Commission on progress with the simplification process – exchange of views

The Commission will present a progress report to Council on its efforts to simplify and improve the Common Fisheries Policy over the last six months, in line with the Action Plan adopted in December 2005. This Plan was the first such sectoral action plan to be adopted as part of the Commission-wide process aimed at encouraging better regulation. Detailed actions were drawn up based on both the Council’s

Conclusions and an extensive consultation process with Member States and the fishing industry. With the full support of stakeholders, the plan identified a series of priority initiatives concentrated on two key areas – conservation and control. The Commission presents a progress review to Council twice a year, once in the course of each Presidency. This will be the last biannual report to be made by the Commission under the 2006-2008 Action Plan. The Commission intends to present a final report on progress over the whole period during the first half of 2009.

the Fish Site Editor