The European Commission today proposed a new fund for the EU’s maritime and fisheries policies for the period 2014-2020: the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said: “This new fund will increase economic growth and create jobs in the sector. No more money will be spent to build big vessels, small scale fisheries and aquaculture will benefit of this budgetary greening of the Common Fisheries Policy.”
This new fund will replace the existing European Fisheries Fund (EFF) and a number of other instruments. The proposed envelope amounts to € 6.5 billion for the period 2014 to 2020.
What’s in the proposal?
Relieving the pressure on fish stocks means that the communities depending on fishing will need to find alternative sources of income. The Commission proposes that the EMFF helps them find innovative ways to add value to their catches and diversify their economy by switching to activities like maritime tourism, cleaning of the sea and aquaculture.
Money will no longer be provided for scrapping of vessels. The Commission says this measure has proven not to work, because for each scrapped vessel another was being upgraded, effectively increasing the capacity of the fleet.
In contrast to the previous European Fisheries Fund, the new EMFF includes the Maritime Policy. The intention is to ensure greater coherence and help deliver synergies between the two policy strands. The rules governing the EMFF will also be harmonised with those for other EU funds, presumably making life easier for both beneficiaries and national authorities.
According to the Commission, fish farming could carry a huge potential to reduce the EU’s dependence on imports, and the new EMFF will strive to boost the aquaculture industry.
The funding of the EMFF will be conditional upon compliance of Member States and operators with the objectives and rules of CFP. For instance, fishermen committing serious infringements in terms of illegal fishing will not receive any subsidies or, if they have already received them, will have to return the money.
Supporting the gradual introduction of a discard ban, the Commission proposes that the EMFF should support measures such as more selective gears and fishing techniques.
The Commission proposes a significant increase of the budget for data collection and scientific advice, and the EMFF will encourage more cooperation between scientists and fishermen.
Comments on the proposal
Markus Knigge, adviser to the Pew Environment Group and co-founder of fishsubsidy.org, said: “The EU manages to live up to 50 per cent of its commitments from the Johannesburg summit. The EMFF proposal clearly makes an effort to disentangle IUU and subsidies, so that money do not go to vessels involved in illegal fishing.”
“However,” said Markus Knigge, “subsidies are still going to maintain overcapacity and overfishing. For example, nothing in this regulation prevents spending money on modernisation of bluefin tuna fishing vessels, which target a species that is so overfished, it is classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.”
Javier Garat, president of fishermen’s and shipowner’s association Europêche, said:
“We don’t like that there is no support for scrapping of vessels and temporary cessation. It’s incoherent with the policy to reduce overcapacity. These are two lines that should be important to reduce overcapacity in a way that avoids serious economic consequences for the fishermen.”
“On the other hand, we are happy with the proposals for innovation and research and the resources for selectivity of gears,” Javier Garat said. He added: “The proposals for diversification are unrealistic. It is a nice intention from the Commission that fishermen should try to find new jobs, but from a practical point of view it will be difficult to implement. It is complicated to make the switch to tourism and other activities.”
MEP Alain Cadec (France, EPP) is the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the EMFF. His assistant told CFP Reform Watch that Alain Cadec expects to comment on the EMFF proposal when the Commissioner presents it in the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee 12 December.
MEP Struan Stevenson (UK, ECR) was quoted by fishnewseu.com as saying that the overall funding pot of €6 billion was insufficient: “That is only €6 billion for all of the EU maritime economy, of which fisheries is only a part. So compared to the €50 billion spent on Common Agricultural Policy that is not very much.”
Ocean2012 published a video calling for an end to “blind spending”.
The Commission’s proposal will now go to the Council and the European Parliament, where changes will be made through the ordinary co-decision procedure. A final decision where all the institutions agree is not to be expected until next year at the earliest.