The European Commission turns to outside organisations and stakeholder bodies in order gather expertise and opinions as it develops fisheries policy. The main groups are described below.
But note that the Commission is not restricted in who it consults and can organise meetings on an ad hoc basis with experts and hold individual meetings for input too. For the CFP reform the Commission has held the online stakeholder consultation, followed by a series of themed smaller workshops with invited stakeholders and experts in order to gather the widest possible input prior to drafting the draft regulation for the reformed CFP.
The Commission itself, with limited staff and financial resources, is not able to provide all the scientific knowledge necessary for preparing often technical draft legislation dependent on the best knowledge possible of what is happening in the oceans. So it uses specialised independent bodies to provide the advice.
International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES)
The main source for scientific input for the EU is the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES). ICES produces scientific advice for the Commission in order for it to develop fisheries management proposals based on scientific knowledge.
With a secretariat in Denmark and 20 member countries, ICES is a scientific and research organisation coordinating and promoting marine research in the North Atlantic and in the Baltic Sea. It also provides information and advice to its member countries and international bodies.
ICES uses biological data collected from research programmes and landing records to assess the main fish stocks targeted by fishermen. The results are then examined by ICES’ Advisory Committee of Fishery Management (ACFM), composed of representatives of each country, and its findings make up the ICES advice.
A major role of ICES is to prepare advice on the state of stocks in the North East Atlantic for the Commission to prepare annual proposals on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas.
STECF – Scientific and Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries
The Commission Scientific and Technical and Economic Committee on Fisheries (STECF) was established by the Commission and is composed of national experts chosen by the Commission based on Member State nominations. The Commission can consult STECF on many aspects of CFP implementation in the fields of marine biology, ecology, science, fishing technology and economics. The Committee also produces an annual report on the economic implications of the situation of fisheries resources.
An important function of STECF is to examine the scientific advice produced by ICES for TACs and quotas and to give an opinion, based on its expertise.
Since ocean resources, including fish stocks, are a common resource, stakeholders – or those that have a stake in how fisheries policy develops – extend beyond the group of persons that use the oceans. In the past fifteen years the European Commission has begun to take this into account, and extended its stakeholder bodies to include, to some extent, environment, development and consumer interests.
ACFA – Advisory Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture
The Advisory Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture (ACFA) is composed of representatives of European level stakeholder organisations. The aim of ACFA is to involve stakeholders in the development and implementation of the CFP. ACFA also provides a forum for debate and potential joint positions for all key stakeholders. Members include representatives from the fishing sector, processing industry, trade groups, aquaculture, consumers, environment and development. ACFA also has four working groups: access for fisheries resources and management, aquaculture, markets and trade policy, general questions including economics.
RACs – Regional Advisory Councils
The 2002 reform of the CFP saw the creation of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), composed of stakeholders from industry, local authorities, NGOs and consumers. Industry representatives make up two thirds of these bodies’ Executive Committees.
The seven RACs cover 5 geographical regions (North Sea, Baltic Sea, North Western Waters, South Western Waters, Mediterranean Sea) and also the Long Distant Fleet and Pelagic Stocks (blue whiting, mackerel, horse mackerel, herring).
The RACs are self-governing and are in different stages of development, with some considered more successful than others in creating a collaborative forum for debate between stakeholders and delivering balanced advice. It should also be noted that since industry representatives make up two thirds of the members, the environmental and other interests’ views can be marginalised in the event of disagreement.
A topic of the CFP reform will be to what extent, if any, the role of RACs should be extended to include a measure of regional management power.
Most of the RACs have their own websites, find them in our links-section.