At its session in December 2012, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee voted on the report for the future basic regulation governing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The key points adopted by committee include:
Discards must be banned – all fish caught must be landed.
EU vessels fishing outside EU waters must meet the same requirements as vessels fishing inside EU waters, including, for example, a ban on discards. Under fisheries agreements, EU vessels will only be able to access the surplus of resources that cannot be caught by local fleets, when fishing in third countries’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). In case they reflag to other countries to access more fishing possibilities than those negotiated under agreements, they will be unable to return to the EU for 24 months.
The ‘Transferable fishing concessions’ (a form of individual transferable quotas) proposed by the Commission have been refused by the Parliamentarians. Each member state will decide how to allocate fishing rights.
Member states will have to report on their fleet capacity. Member states failing to reduce over-capacity where it exists will not get funds from the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
Sustainable quotas must be set above levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) to rebuild fish stocks to healthy levels.
The European Commission reacted positively to the vote, highlighting that it broadly supports the key elements of the Commission’s proposal for a new CFP. The Commission also details the future steps of the reform. The next step will be the European Parliament plenary vote in February 2013. After this, negotiations between the institutions can start so that an agreement can be concluded between the Parliament and the Council, based on their respective positions. The Commission hopes that a compromise on the whole reform will be reached as soon as possible in 2013. This would allow the package to enter into force by 2014 at the latest.
The reform of the CFP has been a long process, but the end is hopefully in sight as it is anticipated that the reform will be completed by the end of 2013. If the Parliament’s position is maintained in the final reformed CFP, the basis of the fishing relations between ACP and the EU will be, as also proposed by the EC, the ‘access to surplus only’ rule. This may provide incentives to EU vessels for reflagging to third countries, to escape such a rule and benefit from further fishing possibilities, which may result in competition with local fleets. Introducing measures to discourage such abusive reflagging, like the fact that reflagged vessels could not return to the EU for 2 years, is a necessary ingredient to ensure the EU keeps monitoring its fleet.