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EU institutions agree on European fisheries aid 2014–2020

08 March 2014

After negotiations were suspended last December, the EU Parliament, Council and Commission finally reached an agreement on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF): an envelope of €6.4 billion has been earmarked for the period 2014–2020.

The rapporteur for the European Parliament (EP), Alain Cadec, pointed out that, without such agreement, “there would not have been any funding for the reform of the CFP, which would have been extremely damaging to the fishing sector.” He added that the EMFF “attenuates some of the excess of the basic regulation,” with financial support to be provided, for example, to help fishermen implement the obligation to land all catches in the context of the discard ban. In order to respect the rule that fishing should be at maximum sustainable yield (MSY), the EMFF will also pay “far more than the Council asked for in its initial position” for data collection and controls.

Other funding priorities include the development of fish farming and monitoring, control and surveillance, as well as support to the outermost regions, including those neighbouring ACP countries such as Guadeloupe, Martinique, La Réunion and the Canary Islands.

The EMFF makes it possible to support investments for “the removal, replacement or modernisation of engines”, to reduce emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases and to increase energy efficiency. It may also fund measures for the temporary cessation of fishing activities, for up to 6 months, in the event of the non-renewal of a fishing agreement with a third country. Support to small-scale fisheries is a priority for the reformed CFP; an action plan in favour of small-scale coastal fishing will be set in place in EU countries with EMFF support, in which the proportion of this fleet is significant.

Regarding eligibility (Article 13) for the EMFF, the Council agreed to an EP demand to exclude from the scope of application all operations that have the effect of increasing the capacity of vessels to find fish.

The Fisheries Commissioner has expressed her satisfaction: “We can now go full steam ahead and implement the radical changes we have agreed last year to finally put European fisheries on a sustainable footing once and for all.”

Environmental NGOs, through Ocean 2012 Coalition, WWF, Oceana and Greenpeace, consider the increase of funds aimed at data collection and control of fishing activities as positive, but expressed their deep disappointment with the decision on subsidies for engine modernisation for fishing vessels, including trawlers.

The agreement will now be put to the vote in the EP Committee on Fisheries before being approved by the Parliament at the April plenary session. The Council still needs to formally adopt the EMFF Regulation. Negotiations are still under way to determine how the total EMFF envelope will be divided among the member states.

Editorial comment

The EMFF will not finance Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) or the EU’s participation in regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) as these are covered by a specific separate fund. Nevertheless, some measures financed by EMFF will have an impact on EU–ACP fisheries relations. In the event of the non-renewal of, or gap between, fishing agreements with a third country, the aid to temporary cessation will compensate long distance fleets that are unable to fish during this time. It is unclear whether this will apply to fleets that are excluded from an agreement protocol, such as the cephalopod fleet fishing in Mauritania, and which hope to fish in another ACP country where a protocol is being negotiated. This would contribute to maintaining a fishing capacity that may not be desirable in the ACP potential host country. Financing measures aimed at reinforcing sustainability (e.g. for better selectivity) will also apply to long distance fleets fishing in ACP countries. Similarly, support to control and data collection should benefit ACP countries. Some issues still remain to be solved, such as the implementation of the new obligation for EU fishermen to land all catches. It is unclear how this will be dealt with for the long distance fishing fleet, as it does not currently fit with FPA provisions and RFMO rules.

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