In her speech at a symposium in the Netherlands, the EC Fisheries Commissioner highlighted that, ‘in 2009 we had only five stocks fished at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in the European Union; today we have 27 stocks’. Last year, this has provided EU fishermen with an additional income of €125 million, by increasing their fishing quotas for some healthy stocks. In particular, most stocks shared with Norway – plaice, haddock, herring and saithe – are harvested at MSY level. All of these stocks shared with Norway, and the fact that they are well managed ‘clearly illustrates also the benefits of good international cooperation’.
The Commissioner insisted on the importance of working more closely together across sea basins which can offer the appropriate cooperation framework for the countries and stakeholders involved in the fisheries, so that they can join forces on issues such as improving the environmental condition of the sea, facilitating the development of common networks for research and innovation, etc. In particular, the EU will support innovation for fisheries sustainability by ‘helping interconnecting businesses and researchers’. She gave some examples, such as cooperation for coastal protection and management in the light of climate change, for improving the selectivity of fishing techniques, etc.
The Commissioner finally mentioned the other European ‘success story’ in the fisheries domain: the creation of the Regional Advisory Councils (RACs), which showed ‘a very positive experience of stakeholders' contribution to the debates on policy-making.
Regionalisation, both in its aspects of enhanced cooperation between countries sharing fisheries of common interest, and in terms of decentralisation of the decision-making process, particularly through stakeholder’s participation through RACs, are at the heart of the EC’s approach for the future CFP. This is also valid for future EU–ACP fisheries relations: regional strategies by ‘ocean basin’ are likely to be developed for the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic and the Pacific. Cooperation between ACP and EU stakeholders (through the specific RAC dedicated to the international EU fisheries policy, the LDRAC), may be strengthened in this process. Such cooperation may focus on a number of aspects, including those highlighted by the Commissioner, in terms of fostering cooperation between researchers and the sector, leading to innovation involving greater sustainability.