The External Dimension of the new Common Fisheries policy

Fisheries Council
Brussels, 14 November 2011

Commissioner Maria Damanaki presented the proposals regarding the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy reform, at the EU Council of Ministers, in Brussels.


Dear President, ladies and gentlemen,

The External Dimension of the new Common Fisheries Policy is an intrinsic part of the reform. It has two important pillars.

The first pillar is about applying the principles of sustainable management throughout the world to ensure healthy and productive fish stocks for us, our children and the next generations. These stocks will also build the economic basis for our fleet.

The second pillar is about giving a fight for our industries to ensure a level playing field and let me stress here: yes, I see it indeed as their right to ask for a level playing field. Bringing about this level playing field is not an easy task, but it is crucial that we pursue it, if we are serious about having a more viable industry and if we are serious about offering better economic prospects for our industry.

Regional Fisheries Management Organizations play a crucial role here. However, their record of success be it on sustainable stocks or on bringing about a level playing field is very varied.

Therefore I believe that first of all we need to ensure that their management decisions are underpinned by the best science available. Science needs to be rendered more robust through peer reviews and broad participation of scientists, including from developing States. This means that internally in the EU we need to increase our own commitment to data collection and applied research.

Secondly, we need to ensure that the measures taken are complied with. We have to explore new methods for encouraging compliance and deterring non-compliance, also through capacity building in some of the developing States.

Thirdly, we need to further strengthen the RFMO instruments to combat IUU fishing, such as the catch documentation schemes and other market-related measures, port state measures and controls of nationals.

To achieve all this, we need a stronger financial base for RFMOs. Apart from increasing our contributions – and others' contributions - , one solution that the EU ought to promote is that vessel operators pay a fee for exploiting the fishery.

Ultimately, Regional Fisheries Management Organizations implement at operational level the agreements achieved within international organizations such as the UN and the FAO. Therefore, we need to define a modern and consistent EU agenda to pursue across RFMOs, in international organizations and in cooperation with key partners. Clearly, this agenda would be based on the principles of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.

For example, we need to address the issue of global overcapacity by proposing capacity reduction or freeze, while bearing in mind the aspirations of developing states.

We have also to pay more attention to high seas fish stocks. A lot of them are in a difficult situation and we are working on addressing this issue.

Simultaneously, we should launch joint initiatives with key partners to tackle overfishing. As you know, we have already started strengthening our alliances with key partners, such as the US, in order to find common solutions to global issues.

Now let me turn to the bilateral aspects.

To ensure long-term sustainability, the new generation of Sustainable Fisheries Agreements (SFAs) need to be based on best scientific advice and on the "surplus" rule.

To do so, the overall fishing effort in third countries' waters must become more transparent. We can do this by including a standard clause in our bilateral agreements whereby partner countries will commit to provide information on all relevant fishing activities in their waters.

Another key element of the reformed Agreements is an improved governance framework. This would include, among other things, a more effective control and monitoring, the full compliance by our partners with their international obligations and commitments stemming from their participation in RFMOs , as well as an ethical approach to fisheries.

Referring to the respect for Human Rights, this principle has already been introduced in all the negotiations in 2010 and 2011: Seychelles, Comoros, Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé e Principe, Micronesia, Cap Verde, and Mozambique.

Only Gabon is so far refusing this clause as they see fisheries agreements as purely commercial in nature.

We also need to modify some other provisions including progressively increasing private ship-owners fees.

We have to make sure that the segment of our sector specific financial contribution tallies with the partner country's interests and needs - and that it brings about results. We need to have measurable objectives to which partner countries would commit; and if they fail to deliver, we need to be able to correct or even suspend our contribution without jeopardizing the fishing activities under the agreement. This will be made possible through the decoupling between access rights money and sectoral support funds.

Ladies and gentlemen, Let me at the end of my intervention give you a quick update on some of our recent negotiations.

• Let me start with Mauritania. In this agreement the sectoral support component is not yet decoupled from the money for access rights component. We have worked hard to achieve exactly that and our latest info is that the authorities in Mauritania are likely to agree on decoupling the sectoral support from the access payment. Still the negotiations with Mauritania remain problematic due to fact that they have too high expectations regarding the question of access rights and money. It could well be that the amount they request is disproportionate to the commercial value of the access. We should therefore be aware that a new protocol with Mauritania is not guaranteed.

• Now turning to Guinea Bissau our negotiations here showed that third countries find it difficult to accept that we are negotiating less fishing possibilities. Our position is clear, namely to ensure value for money, and given the current economic situation in Europe, we can't continue paying for fishing possibilities that are not used. The case of Guinea Bissau also shows also that the EU's support to the third country's sector is determined – and limited - by the absorption capacity of that country.

• Finally, on Morocco, I believe it is time we share our views on how we see the future. It is my intention to propose a draft negotiation mandate to the Council to find a successor to the one-year protocol currently in force. I am preparing everything now, so in case the Parliament votes for the interim protocol, we will be ready to go for a new mandate. This mandate should draw the necessary lessons and conclusions from the current implementation as well as from the recent European Parliament report. The future negotiations have to take into account right from the start the need to ensure environmental sustainability, economic profitability, political complexities and international legality.

I look forward to hearing your views on these issues.

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