Fisheries: new report confirms need to reduce overcapacity
A new report on member states' efforts to balance fishing capacity with fishing opportunities published by the European Commission supports calls for significant changes within EU fisheries policy.
It confirms the very slow pace at which the EU fishing fleet continues to decrease in size. Overcapacity, i.e. too many fishing boats for the volume of fish that can be caught, remains one of the main obstacles to achieve sustainable fisheries. In 2010 fleet capacity expressed in engine power and tonnage was reduced on average by 2 and 4 per cent respectively. This figure is similar to previous years. At this rate, eliminating overcapacity quickly will be difficult, especially as technological progress at least partly compensates for capacity reductions. Several Member States have concluded in their national reports that fleet reductions would contribute to achieve healthy fisheries. Changes in the current policy are thus necessary. The report's findings put into question the efficiency of publicly financed capacity reductions. A 2011 Court of Auditors' report also concluded the failure of the current measures, and advocates either a new approach or better application of existing measures. All Member States have kept fleet capacity within the allowed capacity ceilings. However, these capacity ceilings do not impose sufficient restrictions to help reduce overcapacity. In its proposals for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission has proposed that Member States introduce a system of transferable fishing concessions for large vessels to contribute to industry-induced fleet adjustments and improved economic performance. In addition Member States are obliged to ensure that for the whole fleet the fishing capacity is in balance with the fishing opportunities.