A proposal to develop a comprehensive EU fishery strategy in the Pacific region was presented at the July European Parliament Fisheries Committee.
The proposal starts by underlining that the EU is the second leading donor in the Pacific region (after Australia) but “despite fish being the main common resource and source of wealth for the Pacific ACP countries, only 2.3% of assistance under the 10th EDF [European Development Fund] is devoted to fisheries-related activities in the region.”
Historically, the EU fishing presence in the Pacific highlights that EU tuna fishing operations have mainly been conducted in international waters and in the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of Tuvalu, Tokelau and Nauru on the basis of private-sector agreements, while FPAs were signed with Western Pacific states like Kiribati. The text welcomes the steps taken by the EC for launching new negotiations with the Cook Islands and Tuvalu.
The proposal emphasises the importance of establishing a fisheries strategy for the Pacific “given its value to the EU fleet and fish processing industry and for providing legal certainty for the vessels operating there”. It therefore urges the EC to ensure the coordination of the EU policies affecting the Pacific region: fisheries, trade (economic partnership agreements – EPAs) and development.
The fisheries strategy proposed should include access for the EU fleet to the EEZs of the Pacific ACP countries, “perhaps based on a regional framework agreement between the EU and Western and Central Pacific countries, negotiated with the Forum Fisheries Agency”. Such regional strategy would outline the arrangements for the EU fleet’s access, which would then be given concrete form in bilateral fisheries agreements. It would also establish a system of governance that would, in particular, address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The regional agreement “should be based on the VDS [Vessel Day Scheme] as an alternative to the current system, provided that measures are adopted to ensure the transparency of the VDS, its implementation by all the parties concerned and its compliance with the best available scientific advice.” Moreover, “the 11th EDF should seek to increase the percentage of sector-specific assistance for fishery infrastructure for the ACP–Pacific region.” Finally, the proposal calls on the Commission “not to grant any further derogation on rules of origin in the EPA negotiations with the Pacific ACP countries, without the granting of reciprocal benefits to the EU fishing industry, such as access to fisheries resources in those countries EEZs.”
In its communication on the reformed common fisheries policy (CFP) external dimension, the EC suggested that the strategies should be developed regionally; and this European Parliament initiative could become a “model” for the development of such strategies with other ACP fisheries regions (Indian Ocean and Atlantic). It is, therefore, crucial that ACP countries highlight their concerns and expectations for the development of these strategies, which would need to ensure coherence between EU policies, such as for trade and fisheries, with the EU development policy objectives. The overall development cooperation objective should be the promotion of environmentally sustainable fisheries that deliver long-term social and economic benefits to ACP countries.