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Agriculture - Fisheries - Food

2. Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

Issues

  • Declining fish stocks and over-capacity in fleets
  • Threatened fish species
  • Can aquaculture or fish farms save the fishing industry?
  • Effects of contamination of wild fish by aquaculture
  • Need for alternative work for traditional fishing communities
  • Essential conservation measures involving non-EU countries
  • Fight against illegal fishing

The EU is the world’s second largest fishing power after China. With a fleet of over 91 000 vessels, the EU yields over 7.5 million tons of fish from fisheries and aquaculture each year. According to the European Commission, fishing and aquaculture create much needed jobs in coastal areas and promote the well-being of Europe’s fishing regions. As such, the industry’s socio-economic pressures are great, and member states regularly come into conflict over fishing rights and territorial waters. As fishing stocks of many staple breeds in European waters reach dangerously low levels, the issue of sustainable fishing remains a high practical and policy priority.

As part of its commitment to ensuring responsible fishing and aquaculture, the EU’s common fisheries policy, which was reformed in 2002, is designed to secure the future of the fishing industry. The reformed CFP incorporates the long-term goals of maintaining safe levels of adult fish in EU waters, keeping parity between fishing fleet capacity and overall fish-populations and enforcing fishing rules equitably everywhere in the Union.

During the period 2007-2013, the European Fisheries Fund has a budget of €3.8 billion to provide grants for the sustainable development of the fisheries sector. The member states will decide how to allocate the funds between different priorities, with greater emphasis on funding of fish stock recovery plans, inland fisheries and environmentally-friendly aquaculture.

In recent years, common rules have been more uniformly enforced, due to the increased cooperation between authorities. The new Community Fisheries Control Agency will train inspectors and coordinate greater cooperation between member states. The agency, which is currently based in Brussels, is due to move in 2008 to a permanent home at Europe’s biggest fishing port in Vigo, Spain.

The Commission states: “Sea fish are a natural, renewable and mobile resource [as well as being] part of our common heritage. Healthy stocks can sustain a reasonable rate of fishing but they need a healthy marine environment. Fisheries and aquaculture activities must be regulated through international co-operation to allow for the continuous renewal of stocks and the protection of marine ecosystems.”

While fisheries and environment are to some extent integrated, there is much greater scope to integrate all policies affecting the maritime environment. An integrated policy would improve coordination in multifaceted developments such as port expansions, offshore drilling or construction of offshore wind farms.

In June 2006, the European Commission adopted the Green Paper on a Future Maritime Policy for the European Union launching a yearlong public debate and laying the groundwork for an EU maritime policy. Based on this consultation process, the Commission in October, 2007, presented a Communication on the main elements of a new European integrated maritime policy, recognizing, for the first time, the need for a holistic approach for regulating seas and oceans. The document includes founding principles and main objectives, the required governance framework and appropriate tools for integrated policy making.

The aim of the new EU maritime policy is to integrate the needs and concerns of linked sectors that have an impact on the marine environment and are currently dealt with in separate policy activities, such as maritime transport, off-shore energy production, carbon capture and storage, tourism, fisheries and environmental protection in European and international waters.

According to the Commission, the Integrated Maritime Policy will build on Europe's strengths in marine research, technology and innovation. It will be anchored in the Lisbon agenda for creating more jobs and encouraging growth, and the European Union’s overarching commitment to ensure that the economic development does not come at the price of environmental sustainability. Special emphasis is placed on the social dimension of the maritime policy, i.e., the quality of human life in coastal regions and the importance of education, training and personal engagement in maritime affairs.

The new policy is also hoped to enable the EU to better face the challenges of globalisation and competitiveness, climate change, degradation of the marine environment, maritime safety and security, energy security and sustainability.

The Communication and accompanying Action Plan list a range of concrete actions to be launched within the mandate of the current Commission, by 2009. The actions proposed by the Commission can be seen as a first step toward the implementation of the new maritime policy, which will help the EU move towards the attainment of five key objectives:

  • maximising the sustainable use of the oceans and seas and enabling the growth of maritime sectors and coastal regions;
  • building a knowledge and innovation base for maritime policy by strengthening the interdisciplinary approach to marine science;
  • delivering the highest quality of life to people living in coastal regions;
  • promoting Europe's leadership in international maritime affairs and;
  • raising the visibility of maritime Europe and public awareness of the value of the maritime economy and heritage as well as improving the image of maritime activities and the seafaring professions.

Proposed projects cover a wide spectrum of issues, ranging from maritime transport to the competitiveness of maritime businesses, employment, scientific research, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment. They include:

  • A European maritime transport space without barriers;
  • A European strategy for marine research;
  • National integrated maritime policies to be developed by member states;
  • An integrated network for maritime surveillance;
  • A roadmap toward maritime spatial planning by member states;
  • Elimination of pirate fishing and destructive high-seas bottom trawling;
  • Promotion of a European network of maritime clusters;
  • A review of EU labour law exemptions for the shipping and fishing sectors;
  • A European marine observation and data network;
  • A strategy to mitigate the effects of climate change on coastal regions.

TACs and Quotas for 2009

In December 2008, the EU Fisheries Council agreed unanimously on Total Allowable Catches and Quotas for 2009. These aim to balance the demands of economic conditions and fish resources, applying to EU vessels and EU waters in need of catch limitations.

The discussions were guided by current recovery and management plans, earlier commitments within international fisheries organisations (such as ICCAT for bluefin tuna), and the Commission's general policy of June 2008.

Agreements include: specific measures for cod, haddock and whiting to the West of Scotland (to prevent the need for closure), new catch limitations for ray and skate in certain areas, separate TACs for cod in the Eastern Channel, and technical measures to reduce the number of discards.

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