Fisheries Committee debates transferable fishing concessions

Mandatory transferable fishing concessions could become either voluntary or non-transferable fishing concessions, if new proposals in the Fisheries and Environment Committees get support among MEPs.

The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee organised a hearing on transferable fishing concessions (TFCs) on 24 April.

Transferability deleted by the rapporteur
Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE), who will present her report on the Basic Regulation in May, said she favoured deleting the “transferability” from the concept for now: “So TFCs are just FCs in my report”. “My proposal is that if after six years we haven’t been able to reduce the capacities, then, and only then, the fishing concessions should be made transferable. Let’s give member states time to apply alternative solutions.”

Other committee members echoed previous statements about mandatory TFCs, with Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE, IE) and Alain Cadec (EPP, FR) voicing their opposition to TFCs, and Carmen Fraga (EPP, ES) expressing her support for mandatory FTCs.

Should society give away a public resource?
Among the invited experts at the hearing, there was broad consensus on the concept that marine resources are and must remain a common good and that TFCs cannot confer property but only lease user rights for a certain period of time.

The possibility and risk of financial speculation with TFCs was addressed by Professor Seth Macinko, University of Rhode Island, USA. He said that experiences from other countries have proven it very difficult to control the market forces once they have been unleashed, even when there have been attempts at introducing safeguards against speculation.

Seth Macinko questioned whether it would be acceptable to give away the wealth of a public resource during times of imposed austerity measures. As an alternative, he proposed that member states could use a set of social and environmental criteria for access to the resource, giving priority access to those who fish in a more sustainable way and contribute more to the local economy.

Will Parliament and Council make TFCs voluntary?
Changing the word “shall” to “may” in a legal text means a lot, and a large number of MEPs in the Environment Committee have made amendments proposing that member states “may” establish a system of TFCs, as opposed to “shall” establish such a system.

Chris Davies, rapporteur for the Environment Committee’s opinion on the basic regulation, said at a meeting 25 April that compulsory TFCs therefore seemed unlikely to survive the Environment Committee vote 8 May.

With Fisheries Committee MEPs divided on the issue, it remains to be seen whether his prediction is also valid for the Fisheries Committee or the Parliament plenary.

When it comes to member states, some indication of what they think will be known already tomorrow, Friday 27 April, when fisheries ministers are set to discuss TFCs in Council.

Catch up with the Fisheries Committee hearing via Video on demand

Download the speakers’ Powerpoint presentations:
Seth Macinko, associate professor in the Department of Marine Affairs at the University of Rhode Island/USA and Member of the Scientific and Statistical Committee of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Alaska
Thomas Sterner, Professor of Environmental Economics at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden
Sean O’Donoghue, Federation of Irish Fishermen
Frederico Pereira, President of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Fisheries
Paul Ash, Deputy Head of Mission, New Zealand Mission to the EU
Fernando Gonzales Laxe, professor of Applied Economics, University of Coruña, Spain.

Previous article on CFP Reform Watch:
MEPs divided on transferable fishing concessions

Axel Naver

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