The Fisheries Policy of the future: Intelligent, Flexible and Fair
The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy has been a vital part of my job. I have argued that environmental, economic and social sustainability are intertwined and interdependent. I have been promoting an even more democratic decision-making process and an ever important role of European fisheries in the world.
The core of our reform plan is the concept of Maximum Sustainable Yield: harvesting as much as possible while allowing the population to continue to be productive. By limiting catches to scientifically set levels, we actually make sure that stocks are able to reproduce and ultimately produce higher yields for fishermen. The challenge we have set is achieving maximum sustainable fishing levels by 2015.
We have already made progress in a number of areas. In the North East Atlantic, in the North Sea and in the Baltic Sea overfishing has gone from 72 % in 2010 to 47 % in 2012; in the space of the last year only, we have brought the number of stocks being fished sustainably from 13 to 19; and the percentage of stocks covered by scientific advice from 14 to 24.
But the reform has many other facets too. For instance, we need to come to an agreement on how to eliminate fish discards, as this wasteful practice erodes the fishermen’s potential revenue as well as the production capacity of our marine ecosystems. In the course of negotiations, the Council took an important step forward and agreed to phase out discarding by 2018, with specific start and end dates for each fishery.
In parallel, we are changing EU rules that favour discarding and we are urging Member States to deter their fleets from discarding fish. We also started developing multi-species approaches, an important element in the management of mixed fisheries. With the scientific community, we started work on a multi-species plan for the Baltic Sea and a mixed-fisheries plan for the North Sea.
The reform also has ambitious projects for European aquaculture. The natural productivity of the oceans has its limits; even if capture fisheries were well managed and thriving, they would not be able to meet a demand for seafood that is constantly rising, both in the EU and in the rest of the world. Moreover, I believe that fish farming drives innovative, sustainable and inclusive growth – and that brings us closer to the Europe 2020 objectives.
We have therefore made aquaculture one of the key pillars of the fisheries sector, to be strongly supported by new funding principles. We plan to modernise the decision-making process through a voluntary cooperation process, called ‘open method of coordination’. We are preparing a set of strategic guidelines for 2013, and for this we have launched a public consultation in the spring of 2012. We will enable the industry to build on its assets and to keep developing according to the highest standards in environmental protection, animal health and food safety. We will also see to it that proper labelling enhances public awareness on the qualities of locally farmed, fresh produce.
Finally, the reform calls for a decentralised management that sees all social parties more closely involved in policy-making. I am convinced that decisions should be taken at a level that is closer to the people they affect and I have already started working in this sense: I discussed the reform proposals directly with the social partners in the Social Dialogue Committee on Sea Fisheries and with the European Transport Workers’ Federation. We have gathered the support of small-scale vessel owners associations, of processors, retailers and concerned citizens; and we have informed the public at large through the media.