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Strengthening EU fisheries policy coherence with food security

02 March 2014

The European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM) published a paper on policy coherence and food security. This followed the European Commission’s biannual report on Policy Coherence for Development (PCD), which identified that the CFP is one of the “priority areas for PCD action”.

In its chapter on fisheries, the EC report emphasises the importance of fish and fishery products as a valuable source of protein and essential micronutrients: “In fact, many populations, more those in developing countries than developed ones, depend on fish as part of their daily diet. For them, fish and fishery products often represent an affordable source of animal protein that may not only be cheaper than other animal protein sources, but [is] preferred and part of local and traditional recipes.” The EC praises efforts made in the CFP reform towards PCD, stressing, in particular, progress achieved in (S)FPA, support for developing countries’ participation to regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), the development of the IUU fisheries legislation, and the introduction of a human rights clause.

ECDPM recognises that, from a development and food security point of view, the reformed CFP external dimension is a considerable improvement compared to previous legislation.

ECDPM considers that one of the main issues is that “over half of the EU’s external fleet operates outside SFPAs and RFMOs and instead works through privately negotiated agreements, joint ventures or under non-EU flag… The EU’s capacity to monitor the behaviour of these vessels on their compliance against CFP legislation is limited at best, since strictly speaking there is no obligation for member states to inform the EC of such extra-FPA arrangements by ship-owners operating under their respective flags”. Moreover, the basic regulation impact assessment repeatedly failed to look into the potential implications of a CFP reform that is likely to push more EU operators outside its negotiated regulatory frameworks. However, ECDPM welcomes that, in the new legislation, the main provisions regarding the monitoring and regulating of EU vessels in non-EU waters outside SFPA and RFMO were maintained. This is considered a “tangible effort” to strengthen policy coherence for food security.

Some shortcomings still persist. Generally, the basic regulation displays a limited interpretation of the concept of PCD, focusing exclusively on the EU’s international obligations and EU vessels operating outside EU waters. It excludes relevant linkages with measures, such as subsidies for fleet renewal, that are likely to have an impact, “albeit more opaque”, on fisheries and food security in developing countries.

ECDPM concludes its paper with key recommendations to further strengthen the EU’s PCD efforts, particularly in the area of food security, including the setting up of clear PCD food security objectives, targets and indicators to better guide policy-making and progress monitoring: “The current work program seems to have served primarily as a base document for the biennial PCD reporting rather than as a tool for policy-makers in EU institutions and EU member states’ administrations to get familiarized with and respect the EU’s development commitments.”

Editorial comment

Food security has become a key issue for Africa – 2014 has been chosen by the African Union as the Year of Agriculture and Food Security – and for Africa–EU fisheries relations, including bilateral SFPAs. It is therefore most welcome that some particular attention is being given to the topic, and how it can be better taken into account by EU institutions. In the reformed CFP, progress has been made in that area regarding the basis of future SFPAs. Referring to UNCLOS art. 62 (2) and 62 (3), access is now to be restricted to the surplus of resources that cannot be caught by local fleets, taking into account regional food security needs. However, as recommended by ECDPM, the setting up of clear food security objectives, targets and indicators to guide external fisheries policy and monitor progress would be most useful to ensure external fisheries policy contributes to fulfil EU commitments in terms of PCD.

Regarding the EU capacity to monitor the behaviour of EU vessels operating outside EU waters, the European Commission asserts that this has been considerably strengthened by both the Control and IUU Regulations. Satellite-based monitoring allowing permanent and automatic localisation of the vessels and daily electronic reporting of their fishing activities are now in place. Within this framework, EU vessels must provide their flag state with all their private fisheries arrangements so that the state can check the vessels’ rights to operate in third countries’ waters, particularly for the validation of the catch certificates.


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