Commission publishes controversial fishery reform proposal

On 28 May, the European Commission published its long-awaited, controversial proposal for the reform of the EU fishery policy. The document was preceded by a lively debate on Spain’s involvement in efforts to influence the Commission.

On 28 May, the Commission finally issued its proposal. It remains a very controversial one. The reform aims to promote a more sustainable fishing and to reduce the current over-fishing by 40%. To achieve this, the Commission proposes:

  • stricter rules to ensure that changes in the national fleets do not increase the total fishing capacity, e.g. no vessel would be allowed to enter the fleet until an equivalent capacity has been withdrawn without public aid;
  • technical changes, to help protection of young fish (e.g. larger net mesh, or bans on fishing in some areas during a certain time of the year)
  • a multi-annual programme, instead of the present yearly programme, to better plan the protection of certain species;
  • improved control and surveillance and tougher and more uniform sanctions against fishermen who break the rules, a compliance scoreboard would be posted on the internet to help bench-marking.

In addition, the proposal suggests the abolishment of public aid for new vessels and for renovation of old ones. This money should instead go to encourage fishermen to change profession.

The proposal states that ca 28,000 fishermen, representing ca. 11% of the industry, could be affected by the measures.


Spain, which still has 65,000 fishermen directly dependent on fishery, is opposing the proposal. It will most likely be supported by Ireland, Italy, Greece, France and Portugal.

TheWWFis pleased with the Commission's proposal to scrap subsidies for new boats. However, it claims the reform does not go far enough to protect the environment. The fishing fleet would need to be cut by half to achieve the necessary protection level. Julie Cator, WWF Fisheries Coordinator stated that: "There is no guarantee that the Commission's proposals will actually achieve the necessary cuts in fleet size". The WWF urges the Member States not to water down the proposal, but to strengthen it.

TheDanish MEPJens-Peter Bonde has demanded an independent investigation of the way the Commission and certain Member States have acted in bringing about this proposal. TheEuropean Ombudsman, Jacob Sýman, has stated that "a Temporary Committee of Inquiry set up by the European Parliament would be the only way to achieve a full and effective investigation of the matters".


A Commission proposal for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been expected since March. There have been serious speculations that the Spanish government, supported by France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Ireland, put pressure on the Commission not to issue the proposal. The Spanish government is believed to have asked the Spanish Commissioners to exercise pressure on Mr Fischler, the Commissioner for Fisheries. Loyola de Palacio, the Commissioner for Energy and Transport, sent a letter to Mr Fischler, in which she criticised the proposed reform. (see EURACTIV3 May 2002)


The proposal will now go to the European Parliament and the Council, where heated debates can be expected. The Fishery Council will hold a first debate on 11 June.



Life Terra

Funded by the LIFE Programme of the EU

The content of this publication represents the views of the author only and is his/her sole responsibility. The Agency does not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

Subscribe to our newsletters