Europe’s fisheries policy is in urgent need of reform. Vessels are catching more fish than can be safely reproduced, 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 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.
Presenting the proposals in Brussels, EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, said:
"Action is needed now to get all our fish stocks back into a healthy state to preserve them for present and future generations. Only under this precondition can fishermen continue to fish and earn a decent living out of their activities."
She added: "This means that we have to manage each stock wisely, harvesting what we can but keeping the stock healthy and productive for the future. This will bring us higher catches, a sound environment and a secure seafood supply. If we get this reform right, fishermen and coastal communities will be better off in the long run. And all Europeans will have a wider choice of fresh fish, both wild and farm produced."
Sustainability and long-term solutions are the key points to the proposals. In summary they are:
all fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015
- an ecosystem approach will be adopted for all fisheries, with long-term management plans based on the best available scientific advice
- the waste of food resources and the economic losses caused by throwing unwanted fish back into the sea, known as “discarding”, will be phased-out and fishermen will be obliged to land all the fish that they catch
- clear targets and timeframes to stop overfishing; market-based approaches such as individual tradable catch shares; support measures for small-scale fisheries; improved data collection; and strategies to promote sustainable aquaculture
- consumers will be able to get better information on the quality and sustainability of the products they buy
- general policy principles and goals will be prescribed from Brussels, while member states will have to decide and apply the most appropriate conservation measures. This will favour solutions tailored to regional and local needs.
- Operators throughout the fishing sector will have to make their own economic decisions to adapt fleet size to fishing possibilities ie fishermen's organizations will play a stronger role in steering market supply and increasing fishermen's profits.
- Financial support will only be granted to environmentally-friendly initiatives contributing to smart and sustainable growth and a strict control mechanism will rule out any perverse funding of illicit activities or overcapacity.
- In relations with third countries and international bodies, the EU will act abroad as it does at home and promote good governance and a sound management of the sea in the rest of the world.