The Agriculture and Fisheries Council has held a public debate on the EC's proposal for a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. This followed the current Cypriot Presidency’s desire for European Ministers' guidance on specific issues, in order to be able to propose a partial general approach at the next Council meeting in October 2012. The proposed envelope for the EMFF amounts to €6.5 billion for the period 2014 to 2020.
Generally, the ministers called for the EMFF proposal to mirror what they agreed in June 2012 for the future CFP, and asked for fleet measures such as temporary and permanent cessation of activities, modernisation to be supported by the future fund. Several member states referred to strict conditionalities when talking about temporary cessation of activities or modernisation, going beyond the request to provide fleet-capacity management plans.
Member states such as France and Portugal said that modernisation is necessary in order to improve safety on board and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but that such modernisation should be carried out ‘without increasing capacity’.
The representative of the NGO Pew highlighted that ‘without increasing capacity’ was purely rhetorical, and difficult to assess. Indeed, as underlined by CFP Reform Watch, a 2006 EC paper showed that real engine power, a key element in determining capacity, is up to five times the power declared by fishermen.
In its replies to the Council, the EC emphasised that member states cannot have both modernisation and scrapping subsidised.
Funds for ‘temporary cessation of activities’ have been mainly used whenever a bilateral fishing agreement is not being renewed in time, as in the case of Morocco. This is currently also being requested for Spanish vessels which were fishing in Mauritania but do not agree with the conditions provided by the new proposed protocol – this led to a controversy about whether such funds should cover this type of situation. In the event that such subsidies for temporary cessation of activities are maintained after 2014, the introduction of conditionalities will be needed so as to ensure that unsustainable fishing capacity is not artificially maintained.