Reflections on the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund

Hearing on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund
European Parliament, 7 March 2012

Commissioner Maria Damanaki presented the Commission proposal for a new European fund for fisheries and maritime affairs at the public hearing organised by the EPP Group at the European Parliament.  


Dear Mr Chairman, dear Mr Cadec, dear Members of the Parliament,

Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the Maritime and Fisheries Fund of the future. This fund is a key component of the fisheries reform package on which this House will adopt its position in the coming months.

The new Fund is different from its predecessor in many ways.

I have designed it to support the key objectives of the fisheries reform. It is designed to help us achieve environmental sustainability and also deliver the social and economic sustainability that you rightfully demand for the people working in the fishing industry.

Let me explain how.

Our reform plan starts from the premise that if we go for environmental sustainability, economic and social sustainability will follow. This is not ideology but a pragmatic approach for the management of natural resources.

This is true. And we have evidence: 135 million euro is the extra money that fishermen made between 2011 and 2012 because stocks were better managed than in the past. 135 million euro, ladies and gentlemen! And that amount can still increase sustainably every year, if we get the reform right.

An independent body, the New Economics Foundation, reckons that every year in the EU27 the fishing industry could have an extra 1.8 billion euro - almost three times the subsidies we grant; and we could create around 83 thousand jobs – a third of the current employment in the EU fishing sector - if stocks were brought back to sustainable levels.


Reaching sustainable fishing levels can be done relatively quickly. In fact it has been done in a number of fisheries. There are 20 stocks now fished sustainably in Europe. There were only 5 in 2009.

So working toward MSY is possible, but we have a long way to go. As the French Fisheries Science Association (Association Française d'Halieutique) says in a study published last week: "We cannot be satisfied by a situation where 40% of the stocks assessed are outside safe biological limits".

Turning now to discards: reducing discards is also possible.

Right now there are at least seventy anti-discard initiatives going on around Europe - carried out either by the fishermen, who are finding ways to fish more selectively; or by European retailers, who are delisting species from their supply whenever stocks are endangered or non-selective fishing techniques are used.

My reform plan proposes a gradual phase-out and gives the industry adequate support for the change.


First of all, fishermen will get financial support for testing more selective gears and techniques and for purchasing already tested ones. The new Fund will support any system that reduces unwanted catches to a minimum.

Let us not forget that the reform is mainly about not catching undersized fish in the first place. That is the main goal. Then, for the minimal by-catch that is inevitable, we must find adequate uses.

So, we will finance investments, both onboard and in ports, to store and land those catches. And once they are landed, we will finance their transformation and marketing, so that the undersized fish can at least be used for the production of fishmeal, cosmetics or pharmaceuticals.


For fishermen, you have heard our incentives for more selective fishing. But there's much more. For instance, we will sponsor fishermen who protect and restore marine eco-systems, inside and outside protected areas, and who collect marine litter.

We will compensate fishermen who work with scientists and help us in collecting data, be it biological data or socio-economic data, to improve our knowledge of the stocks.

We will financially support training and professional qualifications, because a competitive sector requires highly-skilled fishermen with up-to-date technological competence. And this is also important for young fishermen who enter the profession.

We will promote networking and social dialogue, stimulating the exchange of best practices and a better representation of fishermen in trade unions. We will fund producer organisations and other associations so they play a stronger role vis-à-vis wholesalers and get better prices for their fish.

We will invest on safety onboard, sponsoring safety jackets with GPS, and on better working and hygiene conditions, introducing tele-medicine.

And now most important I am giving small-scale fishermen special attention in the new funding instrument. I am keen to underline this point.

First of all, the allocation of resources to a Member State is directly linked to the size of their small-scale coastal fleet. The bigger the small-scale fleet, the more money the Member State gets.

Secondly, small-scale fishermen can be directly granted 75 percent of the cost of the project – as against a ratio of 50 percent that would apply to other beneficiaries. This means that a small-scale fisherman will have to chip in only 25 percent of the total budget.

Thirdly, in the strategies for community-led development, a significant presence of local fishermen is explicitly required for the project to be eligible for funding.

Small-scale fishermen will also benefit from a series of tailor-made measures: from advisory services on business and marketing strategies, to feasibility studies to test new ideas and improve their business; from support to start up a new business to financing the retrofitting of vessels.


And let's now turn to what we'll do for fishing communities as a whole, which of course will still indirectly benefit fishermen.

We will support investments in port facilities and landing sites to improve product quality, increase energy efficiency and enable the collection of waste and marine litter.

People both inside and outside the fishing sector per se will be encouraged to diversify. Imagine a small fisherman who wants to develop their own brand and sell it locally. We will support that.

The role of the family business will be finally recognised and they too, will have access to training and financial advice. They will be able to get funding to go into direct sales, small-scale processing, catering, tourism, renewable energies and so on. They will be able to network and exchange practices. They will be able to get involved in local partnerships from the start - and make sure their concerns and their ideas are taken into account.

Finally, we are going to give aquaculture a real financial boost so that it can bring growth and jobs to Europe's coasts as well as inland. Many of the incentives given to fishermen will be available to fish-farmers too.

We will help newcomers of any age start up new farming businesses. We will assist them too with advisory services, training and life-long learning.

We will promote new forms of aquaculture with high growth potential, like growing algae for the production of cosmetics or medicines, for instance.

The economies of land-locked Member States will not be left out.

For additional income, we will support initiatives that integrate angling, eco-tourism or educational camps into fish farming.


EMFF is not just a "fisheries" fund, it is also a "maritime" fund. The pillar devoted to the Integrated Maritime Policy will finance the development of horizontal policy tools such as Maritime Spatial Planning, Integrated Maritime Surveillance and the implementation of the Maritime Strategy Framework Directive. An EU-wide seabed mapping will be one of the priorities of Marine Knowledge.

For Blue Growth, to create new jobs in coastal areas, we will identify the mismatches, promote professional mobility and diversify into other economic activities, such as maritime tourism, ocean non-wind energy or the production of bio-fuel from algae.


Ladies and gentlemen, I conclude:

For the period 2014 to 2020, we hope to have an envelope of a bit more than 6.5 billion euro.

We must use this money to foster the transition to sustainable fishing. Sustainable fishing is more selective; produces no discards; does less damage to the environment; and thus contributes to the sustainable management of marine ecosystems.

We must also use this money to foster economic growth. In this sense, the Fund we have proposed is good value for money – for all countries, maritime and land-locked alike.

This is what Europe needs right now. This Fund is what we need to rekindle the economy of the sector, a sector that is delicate and yet so crucial to Europe's food supply.

Thank you.

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