In February, the European Parliament voted by a large majority in favour of an in depth reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The European Parliament rapporteur, MEP Ulrike Rodust, said that ‘the Parliament has now established red lines that the Council cannot go beyond: overfishing must end in 2015.’ Overfishing is considered the worst failure of the current CFP: official figures show that 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic stocks are overfished.
She also emphasised that ‘Quotas will have to be set according to sustainability goals, instead of through yearly haggling between ministers’. From 2015, EU member states will have to respect the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY), allowing fishermen to catch no more than the annual replenishment of stocks.
The Parliament also decided that the future fisheries policy should rely on multi-annual fisheries management plans. This should improve market predictability, help the industry’s forward planning and future investment of fishing operations. These plans will be based on more reliable and accurate scientific data, which EU member states will be obliged to collect and make available.
Among other measures voted on, the Parliament adopted a complete discard ban, rejecting an amendment that would weaken the discard ban, by removing a provision to enable a 5% discard of the catches. The Parliament also decided that the basis for access should not be ‘transferable fishing concessions’, but that the allocation of fishing rights should provide preferential access to fish resources for those who fish in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Preference should be given in aquaculture to non-carnivorous species, to reduce reliance of aquaculture on fish meal and fish oil, which come from fishing.
A whole set of amendments address the external fisheries policy, and include a new chapter on fishing operations taking place outside the scope of fishing partnership agreements and regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs).
This is the first time that the European Parliament and Council have equal legislative powers for fisheries reform. The changes voted for by the European Parliament will also have to apply when EU fleets operate outside EU waters, although it might be complex to implement for those fleets. Limiting fishing possibilities to respect the MSY, or implementing a discard ban in ACP fisheries where these rules might not apply to other local and foreign users, raises a number of issues. In the coming years, hopefully after a final agreement has been reached between the Parliament and the Council for the reform, it will be important for ACP and EU stakeholders and decision makers to collaborate and examine what the new policy means for the EU fishing activities taking place outside EU waters.