EU revamps fisheries department in sustainability drive

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The European Commission will restructure its fisheries and maritime affairs department along geographic lines as part of a “far-reaching” reorganisation which includes its re-branding as ‘DG MARE’, it announced yesterday (27 March).

The new set-up, which comes into effect tomorrow (29 March), also sees the establishment of a new directorate specifically responsible for the co-ordination and development of policy. 

Commission President José Manuel Barroso said the changes highlight the EU executive’s “determination to conduct an integrated and tailor-made maritime policy […] in a consistent way”. 

The department has been renamed the ‘Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries’, shortened to ‘DG MARE’, while previously it had been the other way round under the acronym ‘DG FISH’. 

The EU executive hopes the reforms will reinforce its “capacity to develop and implement policy for maritime affairs and fisheries alike” while encouraging “the co-ordinated use of all resources and policy tools” for each region. Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Joe Borg said the new set-up would “boost the implementation of the new EU integrated maritime policy”. 

Welcoming the move, Caroline Alibert of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) EU office expressed hope that the restructuring would “lead to the better implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy”. Environmental NGOs have previously questioned the sustainability of European fisheries, with Oceana Europe expressing concern over “badly depleted fish stocks” and “the huge overcapacity of the European fleet”. 

But Commissioner Borg insisted that the new set-up would “facilitate the use of all the instruments under the Common Fisheries Policy to achieve sustainability in European fisheries”. 

Three new geographic departments will manage both the Common Fisheries Policy and the new EU maritime policy (EURACTIV 11/10/07) in their respective regions. These comprise of the ‘Arctic, Atlantic and outermost regions’, the ‘Mediterranean and Black Sea’ and the ‘North Sea, Baltic Sea and landlocked countries’, putting “greater focus on Mediterranean fisheries and on control in international waters,” the Commission states. 

The restructuring follows the commissioner’s February admission that “serious shortcomings” in the enforcement of the Common Fisheries Policy were a major cause for concern (EURACTIV 19/02/08). The EU executive is set to present proposals for a new fisheries control regulation in October 2008. 

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