Commission launches its proposal for a common fisheries policy

The European Commission presented a proposal with a radical approach to fisheries management in Europe. The reform will introduce a decentralised approach to science-based fisheries management by region and sea basin, and introduce better governance standards in the EU and on the international level through sustainable fisheries agreements. With regard the international fisheries agreements, the EU signed a new protocol with Morocco.

In its proposals for a major reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the European Commission will intend to secure both fish stocks and fishermen's livelihood for the future while putting an end to overfishing and depletion of fish stocks. EU fisheries are affected by several interconnected problems. Most fish stocks are being overfished by a fishing fleet that is too large and too efficient. Catches are dipping year after year and coastal communities, which often depend on fishing, watch their economic opportunities fade away.

The new legislative package presented by the Commission is based in a Green Paper launched in April 2009 which analysed the shortcomings of the current policy. Input to the consultation and conclusions from several stakeholder events fed into the preparation of reform's package, which consists in a legislative proposal for a new Regulation setting out the main rules of the CFP; a legislative proposal for a new Market Policy; a Communication on the external dimension of the CFP; an overarching communication explaining the links between the above.

The precise reforms consist in sustainability and long-term solutions which includes that all fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015, adopting an ecosystem approach for all fisheries, with long-term management plans based on the best available scientific advice and the waste of food resources and the economic losses caused by throwing unwanted fish back into the sea, a practice known as “discarding”, will be phased-out. The proposals also include clear targets and timeframes to stop overfishing; market-based approaches such as individual tradable catch shares; support measures for small-scale fisheries; improved data collection; and strategies to promote sustainable aquaculture in Europe. In addition, financial support will only be granted to environmentally-friendly initiatives contributing to smart and sustainable growth. A strict control mechanism will rule out any perverse funding of illicit activities or overcapacity.

On the other hand, the EU plans to act abroad as it does at home and promote good governance and a sound management of the sea in the rest of the world. One example is the international agreements as the one the EU got from 2006 with Morocco. On 13 July, a new Protocol to this agreement has been signed. This protocol defines the fishing opportunities offered to EU vessels based on the surplus available in the fisheries resources in the Moroccan fishing zones, as well as the financial contribution due, separately, for access rights and for contribution in development aid for Morocco's sectoral fisheries policy. The new protocol seeks essentially to extend the provisions of the expired protocol for one year. In the protocol a specific provision has been introduced which indicates that before the expiry of the protocol, Morocco shall submit a report on the planning of the sectoral support provided for by this protocol, in particular including its anticipated economic and social impact and its geographical distribution.