The European Commission announced the next steps in the implementation of the new common fisheries policy (CFP) at a hearing in the the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament Tuesday (22 July).
Lowri Evans, The Commission’s Director-General for fisheries and maritime affairs, told MEPs that the political priority for the Commission now is to get fisheries ministers in December to adopt more fisheries quotas at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) catch levels. This means that the Commission for the moment will downplay the goal of restoring fish stocks to levels above those that can produce MSY.
The new common fisheries policy, which now gradually is entering into force after being adopted last year, is somewhat ambiguous regarding the objectives for sustainable fishing.
Article 2 of the new CFP states that fish stocks shall be restored to larger sizes than those that can produce a theoretical maximum catch (”above biomass levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield”).
At the same time article 2 says that fish stocks shall be fished at the MSY level (”the maximum sustainable yield exploitation rate shall be achieved by 2015 where possible and, on a progressive, incremental basis at the latest by 2020 for all stocks”).
Those two cannot be combined; you cannot take fish out of the sea at the MSY exploitation rate and at the same time restore fish stocks to above the MSY biomass level. For further explanation, read our article Explaining the misunderstandings about MSY.
In the reform of the common fisheries policy, the Commission and the Parliament fought for the target to restore fish stocks above MSY biomass levels, which would lead to a better marine environment, more fish in the sea and better catches for fishermen in the long term. Council, i.e. the member states, on the other hand fought for the target to catch fish stocks at the MSY exploitation rate, which would lead to less drastic quota cuts in the short term.
In the final compromise both targets were built into the legislation. In the near future one of the conflicts in the implementation of the new CFP will be which one of these two targets will be prioritised.
Lowri Evans told MEPs in the fisheries committee that she would like to ask scientists for more refined scientific advice taking into account ’above MSY biomass levels’, but that she did not know when the political reality would allow the Commission to do so.
Baltic Sea management plan after summer
Lowri Evans also announced that immediately after the Parliament’s summer break the Commission will propose to the Council and Parliament a multi-species management plan for fisheries in the Baltic Sea, the first of a series of new management plans under the new CFP that will ”put the meat on the bones of the reform”.