At its meeting in September 2012, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee adopted the report on the future external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The consolidated report has now to be voted on at the next EP plenary session. It will provide guidance on how the external dimension aspects will be dealt with in future EU fisheries legislation, known as ‘the basic regulation’, which is also currently under EP scrutiny.
The consolidated report highlights positions of importance for ACP tuna fisheries, including the fact that ‘the EU should identify the RFMOs [regional fisheries management organisations] where there are problems of overcapacity, and ensure freezing and adjustment of fleet capacity with special consideration for the rights of coastal countries.’ Tuna resource allocation should be ‘transparent and equitable’, using ‘incentives based on environmental and social criteria, as well as historical catches’. The EP Fisheries Committee ‘is firmly opposed to the EU promoting the adoption of Transferable Fishing Concession (TFC) schemes in RFMOs’.
On FPAs in general, the report welcomes the EC approach, in particular the provisions for respecting the principle of ‘limiting access to resources that are scientifically demonstrated to be surplus for the coastal State in line with the provisions of UNCLOS’. The committee also emphasises that the exclusivity clause should be strengthened and formally recognised in the agreements. In order to avoid abusive reflagging – vessels changing nationality or flag to get more fishing possibilities once the possibilities negotiated by the EU are exhausted – the report emphasises that a vessel should wait 24 months before being able to return to the EU register and benefit from EU opportunities once it has reflagged to a non-EU country.
Regarding financial aspects, the report insists that vessel owners should pay a fair and market-based portion of the access costs. It also requests improved supervision of the sectoral support ‘including the possibility of suspension of payments in cases of failure to fulfil commitments by the coastal state’.
The report also proposes that European fisheries private investments should be included as a third component in the external dimension of the CFP, something not currently dealt with by the EC proposals. The CFP would then serve to encourage sustainable external fisheries investment. In this context, the EP Fisheries Committee requests that information on private agreements between EU ship-owners and third countries, as well as on joint ventures in third countries, should be made publicly available. This would include the number and type of vessel operating under such schemes, as well as the catches made.
The report also ‘encourages banks and other lending institutions to incorporate assessments of the economic, social and environmental sustainability of activities, and not simply their short-term profitability, prior to granting access to capital’.
Finally, a number of trade aspects are highlighted in the report:
- trade agreements negotiated by the EU should be accompanied by assessments of their economic, social and environmental impacts on all partners;
- traceability of the products should ensure that they come from legal and sustainable fisheries, so that unsustainably caught products do not enter the EU market.
The EP Fisheries Committee report contains several new elements of interest to ACP countries. Regarding tuna, allocating access based on a system that recognises historical catches, while applying environmental and social criteria, could help to take into account both the rights of ACP countries to develop their local fisheries on a sustainable basis, as well as the expectations of fleets that have operated sustainably in waters under RFMOs’ jurisdiction. It is also interesting to see whether and how the CFP could develop a framework to ensure and protect European private investments in sustainable ACP fisheries.
Finally, the emphasis on traceability and the need to ensure that products from unsustainable sources do not enter the EU market will be a key element of the future CFP. It is already reflected in the new legislation on countries allowing unsustainable fishing, enabling the EU to take measures, including trade bans, against these countries.