A recent report on the 2-day international conference held at the end of January 2014 in Stockholm discussed the implications of the CFP external dimension reform. The conference, funded by the Swedish Ministry of Rural Affairs and organised by the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, gathered 110 participants from all continents.
Following a keynote speech by the Swedish Minister of Rural Affairs, a session addressed “What political and management changes can the new external dimension lead to, and what can EU decision makers and managers do to steer developments to meet the objectives?”
The participants explored possible tools, options, responsibilities and challenges for the implementation of the external dimension of the new CFP, examining various connections between the fisheries policy, the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the UN Convention of Biodiversity (CBD), and recent developments in the work of the FAO.
The conference highlighted the challenges of protecting biodiversity, both within EEZ and in international waters, through EU fisheries relations with third countries. Participants considered that necessary measures must also be taken to safeguard the potential of fish stocks to contribute to long-term food security.
A set of major issues and themes emerged from the presentations and discussions. The EU is a major producer of fish and fish products, and it is also the largest importer of fish in the world. This gives reinforced impetus to the notion that all EU member states, and not only those producing, must pay more attention to the long-term sustainability of fish stocks in and beyond EU waters. The demand for fish will continue to rise in the EU, although the supply may not increase simultaneously. This will raise questions about the EU’s fair share of the world market of fish and fish products.
The participants stressed the need for transparency in the allocation of resources and in the governance of the sector, as well as in connection with subsidies. They also considered that meaningful consultations with all relevant stakeholders are important to improve commitment and adherence to global, regional or local government measures. The potential for advisory councils to foster stakeholder participation was discussed.
Apart from the conclusions of the international conference – which are widely shared and have already been expressed by most stakeholders in EU distant water fisheries – it is significant for ACP countries that this conference was organised by an EU member state. This highlights the growing interest of member states in playing a more active role in the implementation of the CFP external dimension policy, including through future decentralised bodies such as the advisory committees. One should recall that EU member states not only have fleets active in ACP waters, but many of them also have active involvement in development cooperation initiatives benefiting the ACP fisheries. An increased involvement of EU member states in the implementation of the CFP external dimension may be an opportunity to increase the coherence between the support to sustainable fisheries extended through SFPAs and through EU member states’ development cooperation.