Fish policy reform step closer

THE REFORM of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has moved a step closer with an agreement between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.


The overarching aim of the reformed policy is to end overfishing and ensure fishing is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable. The reforms aim to support sustainable sectoral growth, create job opportunities in coastal areas and ultimately provide EU citizens with a healthy and sustainable supply of fish.


As such, the new CFP includes an almost complete ban on discards and regionalisation – with decisions moved away from “micromanagement” in Brussels. The compromise between the European Parliament and the Council also sets an obligation to end overfishing by 2015 for most stocks. However, it allows an additional five years in exceptional cases where reductions in fishing pressure may “seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleets”.


The deal has been widely welcomed, though some campaigners remain concerned that the reform is not radical enough to save fish populations.


“While almost two-thirds of the assessed fish stocks in the EU are overexploited and many fishermen face bankruptcy, the majority of EU’s governments have decided to stonewall negotiations and have refused to accept an agreement that would allow a full recovery and increased income for fishermen within the next 10 years,” said Tony Long, director of WWF’s European Policy Office.


Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who fronted the “Fish Fight” campaign to end discards, has welcomed the agreement but said there is much more to do. “There is not a blanket ban on discards, but the obligation to land at least 95% of catches should massively reduce waste across Europe’s fisheries. And because the new CFP reduces micro-management from Brussels, those countries and fisheries that believe in truly eliminating discards should work hard to do so, even if other parts of Europe lag behind.”


With the new policy now agreed at political level, the final details will now be ironed out and formal adoption will follow in the coming months. The new policy will enter into force by January 1st next year. The rules on fishing subsidies are being worked out separately in Brussels.


Fearnley-Whittingstall added: “There’s now a huge amount of hard work to do implementing the new CFP and turning this into real change at sea. Rewriting the rules in Brussels doesn’t mean the Fish Fight is over, but this is a tremendous achievement which I really believe would not have happened without the help and support of all 860,000 of our Fish Fight supporters.”