At its December meeting, the European Parliament Fisheries Committee adopted its report on the EC proposal for a ‘basic regulation’ on the future Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which is the main legal basis for the EU fisheries policy. The vote in the European Parliament plenary should take place in February. After this vote, the three institutions – Parliament, Council and Commission – will start their ‘trialogue’ with the objective of reaching a final agreement on the future CFP basic regulation.
The Fisheries Committee report was made available in January by CFP Reform Watch. Overall the report supports proposals by the Commission and echoes many elements of the Council’s ‘general approach’, which was voted on last June. However, some areas of the external policy are more detailed or stronger than the EC proposal and the Council’s general approach. The report insists that there should be ‘parity’ between the internal and external dimensions of the CFP: ‘standards and enforcement mechanisms applied within the Union should also be applied externally.’ This includes, for example, the implementation of the proposed discard ban for the external fleets, still a much discussed issue within the EU.
In future sustainable fishing agreements, the Fisheries Committee wants the basic regulation to state that EU vessels should only get access to ‘a share of the surplus of marine biological resources’ in exchange for financial compensation ‘which goes to support the local fishing sector, with a particular emphasis on scientific data collection, monitoring and control’.
The Fisheries Committee also requests that future Sustainable Fisheries Agreements (SFAs) should contain a clause prohibiting the granting of more favourable conditions to other fleets fishing in third countries’ waters, than those granted to EU vessels. It also stresses that the exclusivity clause should be part of future agreements – something that the Council considered might lead to difficult situations if a protocol is not renewed.
The report also insists that member states have to assess and report on their fleet capacity, including external fleets, to identify potential overcapacity. A member state that does not reduce overcapacity will not get any support from the future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
The CFP reform will be completed once the institutions involved find a suitable compromise; including on external fisheries policy issues. If the basic regulation, the legal basis for the future CFP, goes into more detail than the EC proposal – such as what specific clauses an SFA must contain – then it will be important for ACP countries to evaluate the impacts of such clauses. For example, a clause prohibiting ‘the granting of more favourable conditions to the other fleets fishing in third countries’ waters, than those granted to EU vessels’ should be interpreted in a way that, on the one hand, promotes the harmonisation of access conditions for all users but, on the other, recognises that priority access has to be given to local fleets. Similarly, to avoid distortion, it will be important to assess the impacts of a discard ban on local ACP markets. This means all catches will have to be landed locally.