EU launches ‘major’ fisheries policy review


EU fisheries policy will be “fully reviewed” with “major reform” proposed by 2012 at the latest, the EU executive announced yesterday (17 September). But environmental groups said “drastic and urgent” change would be required for European fisheries to become sustainable.

Endorsing the findings of a report from Commissioner Borg outlining the shortcomings of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the EU executive said “short-term decision-making coupled with irresponsible behaviour by certain parts of the industry continues to penalise those fishermen who act for the common good”. 

Reform is required because “in its current form, the CFP does not encourage responsible behaviour by either fishermen or politicians,” said Commissioner Borg. “The management tools we use reward narrow-minded, short-term decision-making, which has now undermined the sustainability of our fisheries,” he stated. 

Meanwhile, Borg’s report outlines various issues to be tackled if fishing in EU waters is to become truly sustainable, including: 

  • Fleet overcapacity: EU fishing boats are currently capable of catching “two to three times” the maximum sustainable yield. 
  • Accountability: Fishermen “must be made responsible and accountable for the sustainable use of a public resource”. 
  • Ecological sustainability must be prioritised over economic and social sustainability. 
  • Simplification: EU-level regulation must be simplified and regional management solutions encouraged wherever possible. 

Predicting a “bleak future” for the bloc’s fisheries unless the EU adopts an “ecosystem-based approach,” environmental NGO Oceana estimates that 88% of the bloc’s fish stocks are overexploited. Calling for “science-based fisheries management,” the group presented data last week showing that most scientific advice on sustainable fish quotas is being ignored. 

“The CFP cannot be considered the EU’s instrument for the management of fisheries and ensuring sustainable exploitation of aquatic resources if decision-makers continue to disregard scientific advice,” it stated. 

Fisheries ministers will discuss future policy on 29 September ahead of the December 2008 Council meeting. If EU leaders formally call on the Commission to reform the CFP, the EU executive would then consult national governments and other stakeholders from early 2009. Stakeholders’ views, coupled with its own review, “will provide the basis for the future reform process,” the Commission said. 

Back in June, the ministers endorsed the EU executive’s proposals to combat illegal fishing and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems by unanimously backing two new regulations (EURACTIV 26/06/08). 

Subscribe to our newsletters