The European Commission and fisheries policy

The Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries

The current Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries is Maria Damanaki from Greece. The Commissioner is responsible for all aspects of development and implementation of the CFP as well as the so-called EU Integrated Maritime Policy. She will be leading the Commission throughout the CFP reform process, which was begun by her predecessor, the former Commissioner Joe Borg from Malta.

The Commissioner is assisted by her Cabinet Team, and a spokesperson to deal with media contacts.


The Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE) is responsible for the development and management of EU Fisheries Policy and the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP).

In the field of fisheries, DG MARE initiates new fisheries policy to ensure the effective functioning of the CFP and ensures that legislation is put into practice by the EU Member States. DG MARE also manages the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), the current programme (2007-2013) that allocates subsidies to the fisheries sector.

The Directorate-General has a powerful role and a large responsibility on the world stage in fisheries.  It is charged with representing the EU in international fora where fisheries is an issue, for example in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) or in United Nations meetings where fisheries is on the agenda. It also negotiates and manages Fisheries Agreements that the EU negotiates with third countries.

The staff of DG MARE is divided into six Directorates. Three are organised geographically, one is in charge of overall coordination and policy development and the other two cover external policy issues and resources / legal affairs.

DG MARE has prepared the new draft CFP legislation, of which five parts were published 13 July 2011 and the sixth and final part was published 2 December 2011. Prior to publishing the legal proposal, the DG was responsible for organising stakeholder consultations and meetings concerning the CFP reform.

DG Environment

The Directorate-General for the Environment (DG Environment) is responsible for initiating and proposing EU environmental legislation and ensuring that agreed laws are implemented and upheld.

The Environment Commissioner is Janez Potočnik.

Although DG Environment is not responsible directly for EU fisheries policy or CFP reform, the DG is responsible for the protection of biodiversity in the EU, including in the marine environment. This should have an impact on fisheries policy and on aspects of the CFP reform. The EU Environment Ministers agreed on a new target for biodiversity protection in March 2010: “To halt the loss of biodiversity and the degradation of ecosystem services in the EU by 2020, restore them in so far as feasible, while stepping up the EU contribution to averting global biodiversity loss”. DG Environment will have to take this ambitious target into account as it prepares the EU Biodiversity Strategy.

DG Environment is also responsible for the implementation of the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive (adopted in June 2008), which aims to improve protection of the marine environment across Europe. Good environmental status of the EU’s marine waters needs to be achieved by 2020. The CFP reform will need to meet the obligations of this environmental directive.

DG Development and cooperation – Europeaid

The Directorate-General Development and cooperation – Europeaid is responsible for the European Commission’s input into EU external relations with developing countries and sets the Commission’s development policy.

The Commissioner for Development is Andris Piebalgs.

The overarching objective of EU development policy is the eradication of poverty and it is in this context that fisheries is crucial since over 150 million poor people in the world depend on fisheries for their livelihood and fish is central to food security and health in many countries. At the same time, however, DG MARE negotiates commercial agreements in the form of bilateral so called Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) with a number of developing countries. Under FPAs, financial compensation is given to countries in exchange for the rights to fish in that country’s waters. DG Development should ensure coherence between development policy and fisheries policy in poor countries. It should also check that development issues are taken into account when these commercial agreements are negotiated.

Achieving consistency between EU development and fisheries policies with regard to developing countries has long proved to be difficult to achieve. DG MARE is under pressure to find new fishing grounds around the world and criticism has been raised about commercial interests of the EU taking precedence of the needs of developing countries. The EU pays between 80 and more than 90 per cent of the access fees to these fishing grounds, while the rest is paid by the ship owners. DG Development has a role to play in the CPF reform to ensure policy coherence as the external aspects of the new policy are discussed.

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The Commission

  • The role of the European Commission
  • The European Commission and fisheries policy
  • Who’s who

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