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A plan to save Europe's fisheries - 13/07/2011

School of fish © istock/Dirk-Jan Mattaar

Fisheries plans would meet demand and secure livelihoods while protecting depleted fish stocks.

Proposals to reform the management of the EU’s fisheries would restore fish stocks to sustainable levels – providing a stable, secure and healthy food supply.

They aim to return the fishing industry to profit, end its dependence on public subsidies and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas.

Change is urgent. Current EU measures have reduced the danger for some fish stocks, but commercial trawlers are still catching fish faster than they can reproduce.

The result? Three out of four fish species are now overfished, threatening the entire marine ecosystem. The industry is suffering decreasing returns and an uncertain future.

Estimates show that the new measures would lead to a 70% increase in fish stocks. Overall catches would increase by around 17% and result in a more profitable industry.

The proposals include:

  • basing fisheries management on long-term goals and the best scientific advice available
  • setting catch quotas to bring all fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, in line with the EU’s international commitments
  • requiring fishermen to land all the fish that they catch – they will not be allowed to discard unwanted fish species caught
  • reducing fleet overcapacity through market measures rather than subsidies – for example, individual catch quotas would be tradable among fishermen
  • providing support to help small-scale fisheries adapt to the changes
  • giving more power to EU countries on conservation measures so these can be tailored to regional and local needs – fishermen would also make their own decisions on fleet sizes and supply
  • supporting sustainable fish farms to meet the demand for fish
  • providing consumers with better information on the quality, origin and sustainability of the seafood they buy

EU financial support will be granted only to environmentally friendly fisheries projects. Strict controls will end funding for rule-breakers or projects that lead to overcapacity.

The Commission also plans to promote fisheries conservation internationally through new EU agreements with other countries.

Next steps

The proposals now go before the European Parliament and EU governments for consideration.

More on the EU’s fisheries

More on reforming EU fisheries management

Common fisheries policy reform: let's have a chat about it!

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