Putting an end to a 5-year process to reform the CFP, on 16 April 2014 the European Parliament adopted the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) – representing €6.7 billion of subsidies – that will help the EU fishing sector to implement the new EU fisheries policy. EU member states are expected to endorse it over the coming month, and it will come into force in June.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries welcomed the vote, stressing that: “our reformed fisheries policy is putting European fisheries on a sustainable footing once and for all… We will co-fund concrete projects in the member states to help fishermen and coastal communities develop a sustainable seafood industry – from the net to the plate.”
In its press release, the EC also emphasised that no subsidy will be allocated to the building of new fishing vessels, in order not to contribute to increasing fishing capacity. The priority, rather, is to help small-scale fishermen who will benefit from a higher rate of aid intensity, as well as young fishermen and fishermen’s families.
NGOs generally welcomed the vote. However, Ocean 2012 highlighted that “While the basic regulation includes ambitious targets for ending overfishing and restoring fish stocks, the fisheries fund is less ambitious in ending harmful fisheries subsidies.” Oceana pointed out that “environmentally harmful subsidies, such as funding for new engines, were unfortunately reintroduced in the fund, but they will be subject to clear budget limits”. Oceana’s policy officer in Europe clarified that “Member states will make the final decision on EMFF investments, and could therefore decide to exclude harmful subsidies from the funding possibilities they will provide to their fishing sectors.”
Although sustainable fisheries partnership agreement (SFPA) funds are not part of the EMFF, various elements of the new fund could be used to promote sustainable fisheries in the context of EU–ACP SFPAs. In particular, as part of the increased focus, and funds available for data collection, it will be possible, according to the adopted EMFF regulation, to use funds to finance stocks assessment of resources targeted by EU vessels fishing under an SFPA.