As part of the process of reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the Council of Fisheries Ministers at their March 2012 meeting adopted conclusions on the external dimension of the CFP. They particularly emphasised issues related to regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) and to EU–ACP bilateral fisheries agreements.
Regarding RFMOs, the Council highlighted the importance of delivering ‘high-standard scientific advice as a basis for sound fisheries management decisions’. On fishing capacity, ministers underlined:
- the necessity of improving the monitoring of fishing capacity;
- the importance of establishing of a global fleet register within the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO);
- the need to adjust fishing capacity to available resources in line with scientific advice.
On bilateral fisheries agreements, the Council conclusions emphasise the dual objectives of these agreements: sustainable exploitation and the protection of the activity and employment linked to the fleets fishing under these agreements, ‘because of their special nature and their connection to regions which are highly dependent on fisheries’.
It confirmed that the EU should only seek access to ‘an appropriate share of the surplus resources’, and insists that future agreements ‘should facilitate the integration of developing coastal states into the global economy’, including by ‘encouraging the creation of a secure environment that is favourable to private investment’. Measures should also be taken to ‘ensure the exclusive nature of the agreements and to discourage reflagging for purposes that are not in line with sustainable exploitation of surplus resources in a given coastal state’.
On financial aspects, the conclusions express the view that the ‘financial contribution for sector support shall be decoupled from payments for fisheries access rights and seek to introduce stronger conditionality for the provision of financial contributions, so that payments would be linked to progress delivery’.
The Council conclusions broadly endorse the major EC proposals concerning future ACP–EU relations, including on decoupling payments for fisheries access rights from financial contributions, and the contention that the EU should only seek access to ‘an appropriate share of the surplus’ of ACP resources that cannot be caught by local fleets. Most importantly, in cases where ministers express the need for the creation of a favourable environment for EU investment in ACP fisheries, the conclusions draw attention to the need to avoid abusive reflagging. In the past, private EU investment in ACP fisheries has often been linked to the transfer of fishing capacity, sometimes exacerbating overcapacity and overfishing in the ACP fisheries concerned.