It’s here – Commission releases CFP proposal

Today, 13 July, the European Commission released its proposal for CFP reform. Here are the main points of the proposal and some of the controversies they have already stirred.

Links to relevant documents at bottom of page.

The reform proposal package contains several parts. Three legislative proposals form the core: a new Basic Regulation, forming the policy objectives setting out the cornerstones of the CFP; a new Markets Regulation; and later in the year a new regulation for the European Fisheries Funds, the funding. The package also contains three Communications, on the external relations, on reporting obligations on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources and an overarching communication about the reform package.

The reform package is sent to the Council and the European Parliament as co-legislators. Over the coming 18 months or so, the Council and the Parliament will first adopt its own position and then agree jointly. Only thereafter will the legislation be adopted.

The proposals are very wide-ranging and cover all aspects of fisheries management, trade and objectives. But a few proposals stand out as controversial.

Transferable fishing rights
Commission’s proposal: The most radical and controversial part of the CFP proposal is that the Commission wants to make it obligatory for Member States to introduce individual transferable fishing rights for vessels longer than 12 meters and vessels under 12 meters fishing with towed gear.

According to AFP, EU internal markets commissioner Michel Barnier, a former French agriculture minister, has resisted ‘central parts’ of the proposal for tradable quotas. Michel Barnier wanted to prevent the risk of an industrialisation and concentration of fishing, AFP reported.

Concerns regarding ITQs have been raised by environmental NGOs such as Ocean2012, who claim that this type of approach has a mixed track record in other countries and would fail to provide compensation to the public for the loss of communal fishery resources or to reward those who fish in the most environmentally and socially responsible way.

Fishermen organisation Europêche has also expressed criticism against the tradable quotas, and have asked for exceptions for the Mediterranean states and the small scale fishermen.

The idea behind the tradable quotas is that they will help reducing fleet overcapacity, through market mechanisms.

Commission’s proposal:
The Commission proposes a gradual introduction of a partial discards ban, i.e. a discards ban on some species.

The issue of discards – dead fish being thrown overboard – has gained a lot of attention through the british UK campaign Hugh’s Fish Fight. The campaign has to this date collected more than 690.000 signatures by people who want the EU to ban discards. Today, fishermen are not allowed to land over-quota fish.

In March, four member states (Denmark, France, Germany and the UK) issued a joint declaration in which they called for a system of “genuine catch quotas”, where all landed fish is counted against quotas. The four states are convinced this “will trigger innovations in improving the selectivity of fishing gear.” Spain’s fisheries minister has signaled less enthusiasm for the proposal.

In a position paper two fishermen organisations, Europêche and Copa-Cogeca, have called for a more gradual approach to a discards ban, “working in close collaboration with scientists and the sector.”

How much fish can be caught?
Commission’s proposal: The CFP shall apply the precautionary approach to fisheries management, and shall aim to ensure that fishing levels are set so that they restore and maintain fish populations above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY).

The key word here is above. In today’s CFP, the goal is to reach levels at MSY.

At the Council meeting with fisheries ministers 28 June, member states reacted negatively to the Commission’s proposals to link catch limits closer to the scientific advice on how to reach maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and to reduce the total allowable catch in the absence of scientific advice.

Green MEPs, on the contrary, support the idea of applying catch limits that are stricter than MSY. Experiences from other countries on applying safety margins to catch limits were presented at a hearing in the European Parliament recently.

One of the aims of the reform has been to decrease the dependency of extremely fine-detailed decisions taken in Brussels, to allow more flexibility for local and regional involvement in fisheries management. This requires a shift in decision-making and extremely clear language on who is responsible for what: the Council and the Parliament, the Member States, or more local or regional entities.

What the proposal does NOT change
A key missing point in the proposal, according to Greens and some NGOs, is that the objectives of the CFP are not prioritised, which has been pointed out repeatedly by both the Commission itself and other experts as one of the key reasons of the failure of the CFP to date.

What is yet to come
One of the main controversies within European fisheries is the issue of subsidies. 14 member states have signed joint declarations calling for maintained strong financial subsidies to the fishing sector. NGO initiatives like, on the other hand, are critical about the EU’s fisheries subsidies. For this issue, however, we will have to wait until the regulation for the European Fisheries Funds is adopted by the Commission later this autumn.

Axel Naver & Staffan Danielsson

Commission’s press release
Commission page with the proposal documents
Presentation on the reform package by Maria Damanaki during the EP PECH meeting on 13 July 2011

The documents adopted by the Commission, 13 July 2011:

  • COM(2011) 417 – Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions; Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
  • COM(2011) 425 – Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Fisheries Policy
  • COM(2011) 416 – Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the Common Organisation of the Markets in Fishery and Aquaculture Products
  • COM(2011) 424 – Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on External dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy
  • COM(2011) 418 – Report from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions; On Reporting Obligations under Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy
  • Impact assessments: SEC(2011) 891,  SEC(2011) 883

>> Watch the press conference

Footnote: Hey, what do all these words mean? Check out our Glossary.

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