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Landmark agreement on Common Fisheries Policy reform

Commissioner Damanaki
© The Council of the European Union

(18/06/2013) Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs has welcomed the agreement on a new, reformed fisheries policy for the EU reached between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament. The agreement marks the culmination of an extended process which begun with a lengthy consultation process that in turn led to an ambitious 2011 package of reform proposals by the European Commission.

The main elements of the new Common Fisheries Policy

The European Commission has welcomed the landmark agreement between the Council of Ministers and European Parliament on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The aim of the reformed policy is to end overfishing and make fishing sustainable environmentally, economically and socially. The reforms aim to support sustainable growth of the fishing sector, create job opportunities in coastal areas and ultimately provide EU citizens with a healthy and sustainable supply of fish.

When will the reform come into effect?

After the agreement reached at political level, finalisation of the co-decision process and formal adoption will follow in the coming months. The new CFP will enter into force by 1 January 2014. Implementation of the new rules will be progressive, for instance on the landing obligation, because there is a need for the sector to adapt and to be able to deliver results. But the reform sets clear deadlines.

Fishing at maximum sustainable levels, under multi-annual ecosystem-based management

To rebuild a vibrant fishing economy in Europe, fish stocks need to return to a healthy state. To do this, fishing will progressively be managed at levels that correspond to maximum sustainable yield (MSY) levels, and setting of quotas will respect scientific advice. Where possible by 2015, and at the latest by 2020 all fish stocks will be managed at MSY.

Multi-annual management plans will move from the current single-stock plans to fisheries-based plans – covering more fish stocks in fewer plans in support of reaching sustainability. Stocks will also be managed through fixing fishing opportunities by Council, and other conservation and technical measures which are part of the toolbox of instruments proposed.

Banning discards

Discarding, 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 (progressively between 2015 and 2019) and in combination with some flanking measures. Fishermen will be obliged to land all the commercial species that they catch. Under-sized fish can generally not be sold for human consumption.

This ban 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. The Commission envisages financial support to introduce more selectivity and innovations to reduce unwanted catches.

Decentralised governance

The new CFP will bring decisions on technical and conservation measures closer to the fishing grounds, in particular to national administrations, fishermen and other interest groups. This should end micro-management from Brussels so that EU legislators will only define the general framework, the basic principles and standards, the overall targets, the performance indicators and the timeframes and then the Member States will develop recommendations on the actual implementing measures.

Fish stock recovery areas

Under the new CFP the Union and the Member States shall attempt to establish protected areas on ground of their biological sensitivity, or of heavy concentrations of juvenile fish or in spawning grounds. This will be in addition to already existing protected areas.

Management of fishing capacity of fleet

Member States will have to ensure that the fleet capacity (number and size of vessels) is in balance with the fishing opportunities. Where a Member State identifies overcapacity in a fleet segment, it will develop an action plan to reduce this overcapacity

Support for small-scale fisheries

In the EU, the small-scale fleet accounts for 77% of the total EU fleet in vessel numbers, but on average its impact on the resources is less, with only 8% of the EU total in tonnage (vessel size) and 32% of EU 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. The reformed CFP extends to 2022 the right for Member States to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

Developing sustainable aquaculture

A better framework for aquaculture will contribute to increased production and supply of seafood in the EU, reduced dependence on imported fish and boosting of growth in coastal and rural areas. By 2014, Member States will draft national strategic plans to remove administrative and other barriers, while upholding environmental, social and economic standards for the farmed-fish industry.

Improving scientific knowledge

The CFP establishes the basic rules and obligations in order that Member States will be entrusted with collecting, maintaining and sharing data about fish stocks, fleets and the impact of fishing at sea-basin level, so as to improve the advice to policy and management.


New market policy - empowerment of the sector and better informed consumers

The new market policy 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.

The existing intervention regime will be modernized and simplified: producer organisations will be allowed to buy up fisheries products when prices fall under a certain level, and store the products for placing them 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. 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, other claims may be supplied on a voluntary basis.

Taking international responsibility

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 Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) will replace the existing Agreements and they will ensure that the exploitation of fishery resources takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice only targeting surplus resources as internationally recognized. Under SFPAs, 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.

For more information:

Reform of the CFP website