The future of EU fisheries policy, the commissioner's view
by Maria Damanaki
Some 68 per cent of EU fish stocks are overfished and Europe is lagging behind internationally when it comes to protecting the ocean's ecosystem and industry jobs - writes European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
The European Union is lagging behind the rest of the world when it comes to the sustainable management of our fisheries resources. Some 68 per cent of EU fish stocks are overfished, but the figure worldwide is only 25 per cent. To address this situation, the European Commission has tabled an ambitious proposal to reform the Common Fisheries Policy. This reform package can really turn around the current reality of European fisheries, where we have overfished fish stocks and economically fragile fishing fleets. Our package is currently being discussed within the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers and I look forward to a swift adoption of the new policy.
The reform of the CFP has its key points centred on long-term sustainability. We want to ensure that our stocks will be fished in a sustainable way by 2015, through the application of exploitation rates at levels of maximum sustainable yield. In our multi-annual plans, we will also apply the ecosystem approach to take into account the link between fishing and the ecosystem. This replaces single-species management plans by fishery-based plans - based on the best available scientific advice.
Furthermore, the wasteful practice of discarding - throwing overboard of unwanted fish - must end and all the catches must be landed. We have also proposed a new system of transferable fishing concessions to help adjust fleet capacity to the resources, and to increase economic viability of the fleets. Finally, European aquaculture will be given more attention starting with the development of strategic development plans by the member states.
In addition we will change the decision-making procedures by introducing a decentralised system - a general framework with overall targets and objectives will be decided in Brussels. Within those boundaries, member states will then be handed the baton to devise together with the stakeholders their own fisheries management measures according to their own regional specificities, giving some responsibility back to the fishing industry. As part of the reform package, a new fund for the EU's maritime and fisheries policies for the period between 2014 and 2020 was proposed: the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. The fund will assist in delivering the ambitious objectives of CFP reform by supporting the transition towards sustainable fishing – especially, for coastal communities who are heavily dependent on fishing and need to diversify their economies.
Aquaculture development will also be promoted. The EU, being the world's largest importer of fisheries products must act abroad as at home. So, we will continue to work towards this direction in a more decisive way by developing the external dimensions of our fisheries policy as an integrated part of the CFP. In international and regional organisations, the EU will therefore advocate the principles of sustainability and conservation of fish stocks and marine biodiversity as well as the social and employment rights. And, of course, the sanitary requirements applied in the EU for safety of food.
We will continue to establish alliances and undertake actions with key partners to combat illegal fishing by intensifying proper controls of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing - and reduce overcapacity. The CFP reform is a matter that concerns everybody – fishermen, coastal populations, retailers, consumers and taxpayers. Making a shift in the way we fish is not an easy task and nobody can do it alone. But together, we can take a step towards mobilising governments and people. And we can make the CFP fit for the environmental and socio-economic challenges of today and of the future.
Maria Damanaki is European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries