Frequently Asked Questions
Questions and Answers on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
Why is a new policy necessary ?
Europe’s fisheries policy is in urgent need of reform. Vessels are catching more fish than can be safely reproduced, thus exhausting individual fish stocks and threatening the marine ecosystem. Today, three out of four stocks are overfished: 82% of Mediterranean stocks and 63% of Atlantic stocks. The fishing industry is experiencing smaller catches and facing an uncertain future.
Against this background, the Commission is proposing an ambitious reform of the policy. This reform is about putting in place the conditions for a better future for fish and fisheries alike, as well as the marine environment that supports them. The reform will contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy and the policy will be developed as part of the broader maritime economy to ensure more coherent policies for the EU's seas and coastal areas by working towards robust economic performance of the industry, inclusive growth and enhanced cohesion in coastal regions.
Sustainability is at the heart of the proposed reform. Fishing sustainably means fishing at levels that do not endanger the reproduction of stocks and that provide high long-term yields. This requires managing the volume of fish taken out of the sea through fishing. The Commission proposes that by 2015, stocks must be exploited at sustainable levels, defined as the highest catch that can be safely taken year after year and which maintains the fish population size at maximum productivity. This level is known as the ‘maximum sustainable yield’ (MSY). This objective is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, and was adopted at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development as a target the world should reach by 2015.
Estimates show that if stocks were exploited in this way, stock sizes would increase by about 70%. Overall catches would increase by around 17%, profit margins could be multiplied by a factor of three, return on investments would be six times higher, and the gross value-added for the catching industry would rise by almost 90%, equal to € 2.7 billion over the next decade.
Fishing sustainably would also free the catching sector from depending on public support. It would make it easier to achieve stable prices under transparent conditions, bringing clear benefits for consumers. A strong, efficient and economically viable industry operating under market conditions would play a more important, active role in managing stocks.
What are the main elements of the new proposals?
The multi-annual ecosystem-based management
To rebuild a vibrant fishing economy in Europe, the marine environment must be protected more effectively. From now on, EU fisheries will be managed by multi-annual plans and governed by the ecosystem approach and the precautionary principle to ensure that the impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem are limited. The fishing industry will have a better and more stable basis for long-term planning and investment. This will safeguard resources and maximise long-term yields.
Multi-annual management plans should move from the current single-stock plans to fisheries-based plans – covering more fish stocks in fewer plans, with the aim of reaching sustainable levels by 2015. Stocks not under plans will be managed through fixing fishing opportunities by Council, and other conservation and technical measures which are part of the toolbox of instruments proposed.
Discarding, ie the practice of throwing unwanted fish overboard, is estimated at 23% of total catches (substantially more in some fisheries!). This unacceptable practice will be phased out with a precise timeline for implementation and in combination with some flanking measures. Fishermen will be obliged to land all the commercial species that they catch. Under-sized fish cannot be sold for human consumption.
Member States shall make sure that their fishing vessels are equipped to ensure full documentation of all fishing and processing activities so as to monitor compliance with the obligation to land all catches.
This approach will lead to more reliable data on fish stocks, support better management and improve resource efficiency. It is also an incentive for fishermen to avoid unwanted catches by means of technical solutions such as more selective fishing gear.
Making fishing profitable
A system of transferable catch shares, known as 'concessions', will be introduced as from 2014 for vessels over 12 metres long and all vessels using towed gear. Based on agreed principles at EU level the concessions will be distributed by Member States in a transparent way, and will grant their owner an entitlement to a share of the national fishing opportunity for each year. Operators will be able to lease or trade their concessions within their Member state, not between Member states. The concessions will have a minimum validity of 15 years but can be recalled before expiry in case of serious infringement by the holder. Member States may create a reserve and introduce a fee for the concessions.
This new system will give the fishing industry a long-term perspective, more flexibility and greater accountability, while at the same time reducing overcapacity. Operators will have an incentive to increase their concessions while others may decide to leave the industry. It is predicted that incomes could raise by over 20% and crew wages by between 50% and over 100% by 2022 under this system .
Support for small-scale fisheries
In the EU, the small-scale fleet accounts for 77% of the total EU fleet in vessel numbers but only for 8% in tonnage (vessel size) and 32% in terms of engine power. Small-scale coastal fisheries often play an important role in the social fabric and the cultural identity of many of Europe's coastal regions. They therefore require specific support. The reformed CFP extends to 2022 the right for Member States to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coastline. Small-scale fisheries may also be exempted from the transferable fishing concessions scheme. The future financial instrument for fisheries will include measures beneficial to small-scale fisheries and will help local economies adapt to the changes.
Developing sustainable aquaculture
A better framework for aquaculture will increase production and supply of seafood in the EU, reduce dependence on imported fish and boost growth in coastal and rural areas. By 2014, Member States will draft national strategic plans to remove administrative barriers and uphold environmental, social and economic standards for the farmed-fish industry. A new Aquaculture Advisory Council will be established to give advice on industry-related issues. There is a clear EU dimension in aquaculture development: strategic choices made at national level can have a bearing on such development in neighbouring Member States.
Improving scientific knowledge
Reliable and up-to-date information about the state of marine resources is essential to support sound management decisions as well as effective implementation of the reformed CFP. The proposal establishes the basic rules and obligations for Member States on data collection, management, data availability and access provisions for the Commission. Member states will be entrusted with collecting, maintaining and sharing scientific data about fish stocks and the impact of fishing at sea-basin level. National research programmes will be established to coordinate this activity
The Commission proposal is clarifying roles and obligations of each actor and will bring decisions closer to the fishing grounds. It will end micro-management from Brussels so that EU legislators will only define the general framework, the basic principles, the overall targets, the performance indicators and the timeframes. Member States will then decide the actual implementing measures, and will cooperate at regional level. The proposal includes provisions to ensure that the Member States concerned adopt measures which are compatible and effective. A fall-back mechanism is established for Commission action in cases where Member States cannot agree, or where the targets are not being reached.
New market policy - empowerment of the sector and better informed consumers
A proposal for a new Market Policy is part of the package proposed to ensure that the organization of the common markets for fisheries products contributes to achieving the objectives of the new CFP. It aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU industry, improve the transparency of the markets, and ensure a level playing field for all products marketed in the Union.
It also includes a modernisation of the intervention regime as the current system of spending public money to destroy fish is no longer justifiable. It will be replaced by a simplified storage mechanism, which will allow producer organisations to buy up fisheries products when prices fall under a certain level, and store the products for placing on the market at a later stage. This system will foster market stability.
Producer organisations will also play a greater role in collective management, monitoring and control. Better marketing of EU fisheries and aquaculture products will help to reduce waste and provide market feedback to producers.
New marketing standards on labelling, quality and traceability will give consumers clearer information and help them support sustainable fisheries. Certain labelling information will be compulsory, for example to differentiate fisheries and aquaculture products; other claims may be supplied on a voluntary basis.
Taking international responsibility
Almost 85% of the world fish stocks for which information is available are reported as being either fully exploited or overexploited, according to the FAO. The EU, being the world's largest importer of fisheries products in terms of value, must act abroad as at home. The external fisheries policy must be an integrated part of the CFP. In international and regional organisations, the EU will therefore advocate the principles of sustainability and conservation of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. It will establish alliances and undertake actions with key partners to combat illegal fishing and reduce overcapacity.
In bilateral fishing agreements with non-EU countries, the EU will promote sustainability, good governance and the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Sustainable Fisheries Agreements (SFAs) will replace the existing Fisheries Partnership Agreements (FPAs) and they will ensure that the exploitation of fishery resources takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice only targeting surplus resources that the partner country cannot or does not want to fish itself. Under SFAs, partner countries shall be compensated for granting access to their fishing resources and financial assistance shall be provided to the partner countries for the implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy.
Will there by new rules on Control and Enforcement?
The proposal is consistent with the EU's new control regime from 2010 and integrates the basic elements of the control and enforcement regime for compliance with the rules of the CFP. In light of the introduction of the landing obligation to avoid discards the Commission proposes monitoring and control obligations in particular in relation to fully documented fishery, as well as pilot projects on new fisheries control technologies that contribute to sustainable fishing.
When will the reform come into effect?
The new rules will come into effect once the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament have voted on the proposals. Implementation will be progressive because there is a need for the sector to adapt and to be able to deliver results. But the reform sets clear deadlines. The aim for adoption and entry into force of the new legislation is 1.1.2013.
See also: IP/11/873
Questions and answers on the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
What is the EMFF?
EMFF is the new financial instrument that will help deliver the growth, jobs and sustainability objectives of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and support the implementation of the EU Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP).
It will underpin the social dimension of the reformed CFP and will create added value for the on-land side of the policy, through, inter-alia, support to the development of aquaculture and to sustainable and inclusive territorial development. EMFF is part of the EU's multi-annual financial framework for 2014-2020. The envelope devoted to fisheries and maritime affairs over the period is set, in current prices, at €7.4 billion, though this includes partnership agreements with third countries and contributions to regional fisheries management organisations. The EMFF in itself has a budget of € 6.5 billion.
What are the priorities of EMFF?
The EMFF focuses on the long-term strategic objectives of the two policies: for the Common Fisheries Policy, contributing to sustainable and competitive fisheries and aquaculture; for the Integrated Maritime Policy, ensuring a consistent policy framework for the policy and contributing to a balanced and inclusive territorial development of fisheries areas. In line with the Europe 2020 strategy, these broad objectives for 2014-2020 are structured around four pillars in the EMFF:
- Smart, Green Fisheries to foster the transition to sustainable fishing, which is more selective, produces no discards, and does less damage to marine ecosystems. The support will focus on innovation and added value that can make the fisheries sector economically viable and resilient to external shocks and to competition from third countries.
- Smart, Green Aquaculture to make this industry economically viable, competitive, green and able to face global competition, while providing EU consumers with healthy and highly nutritional products.
- Sustainable and Inclusive Territorial Development to reverse the decline of many coastal and inland communities dependent on fishing, by adding more value to fishing-related activities, and by diversifying to other sectors of the maritime economy.
- Integrated Maritime Policy to support priorities which generate savings and growth and cut across sectors, such as marine knowledge, maritime spatial planning, integrated coastal zone management, integrated maritime surveillance, the protection of the marine environment and of biodiversity, and the adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change on coastal areas.
In addition to these four pillars, the EMFF will include accompanying measures for data collection and scientific advice, control, governance, fisheries markets (including in outermost regions), voluntary payments to Regional Fisheries Management Organisations and technical assistance.
What will change with the new fund?
Compared to the current funding system under the European Fisheries Fund (EFF), main changes will be:
- The financial support directed to scrapping of vessels will stop. The EU has tried this, and it hasn’t worked, because for each scrapped vessel another was being upgraded, effectively increasing the capacity of the fleet.
- The existing financial tools will be integrated into a single fund. This will result in a major simplification and cutting of a red tape, due to the alignment of different administrative rules.
- The funding will be linked to the key objectives of the CFP reform, through conditionality. In particular, funding of the EMFF will be conditional upon compliance of Member States and operators with the objectives and rules of CFP (further details below).
- The CFP will be integrated into the broader Maritime Policy to a much larger extent, opening up new possibilities for growth and jobs.
- Close co-ordination with other funds will be ensured through the Common Strategic Framework.
Who will benefit and how?
- European coastal and inland communities dependent on fishing will benefit from the new job and growth opportunities in fisheries, aquaculture and other sectors of the maritime economy, which in turn will have positive spin-offs on local growth and development.
- European fisheries will get support to ease the implementation of the reform and reduce the innovation gap.
- European aquaculture will get access to funds whenever it promotes green growth, innovation and competitiveness.
- The European processing industry will benefit from stable supplies of wild and farmed produce.
- European consumers will have access to healthy fisheries and farmed products with high nutritional value.
- Scientists and researchers in the fields of marine environment, climate change, coastal protection, governance, social sciences, maritime economy, etc.
- Companies engaged in coastal or offshore economic activities and the enterprises that provide services to them.
- Authorities in charge of different aspects of maritime affairs, such as environmental protection, surveillance, or spatial planning.
- Beneficiaries will benefit from simpler rules.
How is environmental sustainability ensured?
The existing measures have been streamlined and reviewed so that they are more strongly linked to environmental sustainability. Overcapacity remains the major problem of the CFP and one of the key drivers of overfishing. But as scrapping to remove overcapacity had proved ineffective, the EMFF will instead deploy its financial resources towards sustainable fishing.
The EMFF will support the transition to Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and facilitate the gradual introduction of a discard ban. To this end the EMFF will support, for example:
- more selective gears and fishing techniques,
- investments in equipment on board and port facilities necessary to use the unwanted catches,
- marketing measures (quality schemes supporting sustainable fishing and aquaculture products, similar promotion campaigns) and processing.
- The participation of fishermen in the protection and restoration of marine biodiversity and ecosystems, in the framework of sustainable fishing activities (including collection of marine litter, management, restoration and monitoring of NATURA 2000 sites and of other Marine Protected Areas etc).
In addition, the budget for data collection and scientific advice (to increase the number of stocks for which scientific advice is available), and the control (to ensure better compliance) will be substantially increased.
Worldwide fisheries represent around 1.2% of the global fuel consumption. There is a need to increase resource efficiency and reduce emissions to contribute to the Europe 2020 target on climate change. Accordingly, the EMFF will support some measures to mitigate climate change.
What about support to innovation?
For both the catching and the farming sectors, supply, marketing and commercialisation is currently organised in such a way that fishing and aquaculture businesses are generally not involved in selling and marketing of their products.
New measures with a strong focus on innovation have been included in the EMFF to promote the development of new or improved products and processes and to improve management and organisation systems. These will help the catching and aquaculture sectors to add value to their products, reduce the environmental impact of their activities and lower production costs. This support is particularly important for the small scale coastal fleet and for aquaculture enterprises.
Other measures will stimulate co-operation between scientists and fishermen, with the view of achieving more sustainable fishing. The support for community-led local development in fisheries-dependent areas will also help disseminate the innovation at the local level.
The EMFF will seek to promote new forms of aquaculture with high innovation and growth potential, such as offshore and non-food aquaculture (for example the cultivation of algae). Multifunctional aquaculture is an opportunity to diversify the income of aquaculture enterprises through complementary activities, such as angling, tourism, environmental services, direct sale or educational activities.
What about the social dimension?
In line with the Europe 2020 priority of inclusive growth, the EMFF will promote social cohesion and job creation in fisheries dependent communities, in particular through diversification into other maritime sectors. The community-led approach to the sustainable development of fisheries areas will be reinforced. Spouses of fishers will be able to get support for training or other economic activities related to fishing and to their role in the family business (i.e. helping them to better deal with paper work or to acquire new business skills).
Small-scale coastal fleets are important for employment and often hold together the social fabric of coastal communities. The EMFF proposes to give them privileged access to all measures. This will be done by applying a higher aid intensity rate. Small-scale fleets will also be able to receive professional advice on business and marketing strategies, for example to start up a non-fishing business. Support for innovation is particularly important, as the majority of small-scale coastal fleet are micro-enterprises with restricted access to funding.
What about Maritime Policy?
Almost 7% of the EMFF envelope is set to support the Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP), which facilitates coordination across borders and across sectors and brings about cost-effective synergies and money savings.
Funding will mainly focus on those initiatives that benefit various sectors across the board but cannot be accomplished by any single sector-based policy or single Member State. These are maritime spatial planning, integrated maritime surveillance and marine knowledge.
Maritime Spatial Planning provides a stable legal framework to manage marine areas, resources and services in a sustainable way. It can accelerate maritime investments and lower legal and administrative costs for companies. EMFF could finance activities which support the implementation of maritime spatial planning in cross-border regions.
Integrated Maritime Surveillance helps public actors to share data and thus cope with real time events at sea more efficiently. It avoids costly duplication of resource-consuming maritime surveillance activities. Integrated surveillance means better use of public money. EMFF could finance the creation of a decentralised information sharing environment to improve maritime surveillance.
Marine Knowledge 2020 aims at pooling together Europe's fragmented marine knowledge into a resource database that is freely accessible to the public. EMFF would help finance the establishment of this database, known as EMODNet. Entrepreneurs and academics need coherent and good-quality data to develop their business and research, and thus increase Europe's competitiveness. Marine Knowledge 2020 will save around €300 million a year for the EU.
Managing maritime affairs in an integrated way meets the objectives of Europe 2020. It means applying EU law better, spending public money better and maximising the effect of the various policies affecting the sea. Funding will also support the development of integrated maritime governance at sea-basin level. Sea-basin strategies identify links and synergies between the Member States' maritime-related policies and they streamline funding from Member States and different European sources on specific measures.
How will you ensure that the money is correctly spent?
In line with the Multi-annual Financial Framework Communication, conditionality must be introduced into all EU programmes and instruments so that Member States and beneficiaries demonstrate that they use the funding received to make progress toward the policy priorities set at EU level.
The EU financial assistance under the EMFF will be made conditional upon the compliance of Member States and operators with the objectives, rules and targets of the Common Fisheries Policy, in particular control obligations, the rules against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU Regulation) and the data collection obligations of the Member States. In practice:
- Fishermen committing serious infringements, in terms of fisheries control or fishing vessels which are on the IUU list, will not receive any subsidies or, if they have already received them, will have to return the money.
- The Commission will apply interruption, suspension and financial corrections to Member States that do not comply with their obligations in terms of control and data collection.
- In addition, Member States will have to set-up the necessary pre-conditions for the proper implementation of the EMFF: capacity to provide the EU with data on fisheries necessary for proper management, to control fishing activities and to ensure strategic approach to aquaculture activities.
Last but not least: funding under the EMFF will be subject to new transparency rules: Member States will have to publish in a single website a list of operations supported under the EMFF along with the amount of EU contribution for each operation. This list will be updated at least every three months. This is particularly important to prevent that beneficiaries involved in illegal fishing receive funding. Crucially for this purpose, details in the list will include the community fleet register number of the vessel whenever the operation is linked to a fishing vessel.
What about simplifying and cutting red tape?
The integration of five CFP and IMP financial instruments into a single fund will be a major simplification, because rules and procedures will be streamlined and unified. In practice, four sets of financial decisions, reporting, monitoring and evaluation procedures will be replaced by a single one.
The main administrative burden of the current European Fisheries Fund was the setting up of the Management and Control System. The proposal for the "Common Provisions" Regulation, adopted on 6 October 2011 (IP/11/1159), within the reform of the cohesion policy, envisages a management and control system which is the same for all Common Strategic Framework (CSF) funds. This approach will significantly reduce the amount of the time necessary to set up management and control systems and will speed up project implementation. Because the delivery mechanism will be aligned with that of the EU's rural development fund, Member States will be able to manage the EARDF and EMFF Operational Programmes through the same administrative bodies. Administrative costs will be further reduced by the unified approach in terms of management and control, including reporting, evaluation and monitoring.