Reform for European fisheries policy

THE EUROPEAN Parliament today voted to back a major reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The new proposals aim to cut fishing to sustainable stock levels, end dumping at sea (discards), and base long-term planning on sound scientific data.


Environmental groups have welcomed the news as “ground-breaking” but some fishing groups claimed the reforms were too sudden.


European Commission figures suggest that 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic ones are overfished. The reform, which could come into effect as soon as next year, sets out clear and strong measures to tackle this problem.


The wasteful practice of discards – one of the most high profile issues in the reform thanks to a campaign fronted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall – will be banned, with fishing vessels obliged to land all catches in accordance with a schedule of specific dates for different fisheries.


However, there are other notable proposals. From 2015, for example, EU member states will be prevented from setting quotas that are too high to be sustainable. Fishermen will have to respect the “maximum sustainable yield” (MSY) – that is, catch no more than a given stock can reproduce in a given year.


“We have shown today that the European Parliament is anything but toothless,” said fisheries reform rapporteur Ulrike Rodust. “We have used our power as a co-legislator, for the first time in fisheries policy, to put a stop to overfishing.”


The proposals also mean fish stocks should recover by 2020, enabling member states to take 15 million tonnes more fish, and create 37,000 new jobs, said Rodust, whose report was adopted by 502 votes to 137, with 27 abstentions.


The CFP has been in place for three decades, and undergone two reviews. This is the third and, thanks to the Lisbon Treaty, there are co-decision powers in place permitting the full involvement of the European Parliament for the first time.


Parliament will now start negotiations with the Council and the Commission on the reform plans before their second reading. The Irish Presidency of the Council has repeatedly said it hopes to achieve an agreement the end of June.


“This vote reflects the views of the hundreds of thousands of members of the public, industry and fishermen themselves who campaigned to ensure the long term stability of fish stocks,” said WWF-UK fisheries programme manager Helen McLachlan. 


It is now up to Fisheries Ministers to show the same determination and commitment to deliver the healthy fisheries and marine environment that Europe needs and deserves.”