Honourable Galdes, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to this conference on the integration of economic advice in fisheries management, being organised in Malta, the country I know best.

Why has the European Commission organised this conference? Simply put: because to manage our fisheries well, we need sound data, analysis and advice. Biological advice, for sure. But also economic advice.

When it comes to economic advice, we in the European Commission are facing three challenges.

Firstly, we need economic advice to back up our policy proposals. That economic advice needs to be accurate and relevant.  For years, when it came to shaping fisheries policies, economic advice competed with biological advice. More often than not, economic advice has been used to defer difficult decisions – or avoid them altogether.

This mindset needs to change. Legislators, fishermen, NGOs – all are pressing us to back up our proposals with sound data and to evaluate the economic impact of the measures we take. And they are right.

Secondly, we need to develop new tools that will help us improve the quality of our analyses and advice. This means adopting state-of-the-art tools to process the data we receive. It means developing the tools we lack to respond to the questions we have.

As you will hear today, new tools and methods are becoming available. We should keep up with these developments, evaluate them and adapt them to our needs.

But above all, we need to improve the quality of the data that we use. The better the reliability of the input we receive, the better our output becomes.

Thirdly, the fisheries sector is changing. Seafood markets are becoming ever more integrated and ever more globalised. Our economic advice needs to take this into account – but how? To paraphrase a famous movie character: we must ensure that the force stays with us!

Now, the situation is not that bleak. Over the last few years, we have made quite an effort to develop a better understanding of the economics of the fisheries sector. And as you will hear today and tomorrow, we have made significant progress.

So I am optimistic. Let me tell you why.

Firstly, I see a cultural change. Policy makers today are more aware that fishing is indeed an economic activity. Fishermen are economic agents who react to incentives – in particular policy incentives.

So we now have tools that not only analyse the biological aspects of our proposals, but also their economic and social impacts. We no longer simply speak about tonnes of fish, but also about profit margins, value added, jobs and growth.

Secondly, we have more and new economic intelligence at our disposal. For instance our Annual Economic Reports on the state of the fleets, on EU aquaculture and on the processing sector.

And thirdly, we are getting better at measuring the economic impact of our activities, in particular our funding for fisheries and aquaculture projects. Has EU money been well spent? Where is future funding needed – and how much? Difficult questions, but we are now better at answering them. And the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will help us further: by freeing up money to finance the data collection activities that we so crucially need.

Still, dear colleagues, we need your help and we need to learn from our guests' experience in other parts of the world. Much remains to be done. Together, we want to:

  • identify ways to improve data quality, making our annual economic reports even better and allowing them to give us a reliable – and up-to-date – picture of the performance of EU fleets;
  • measure fishing capacity more accurately through economic – and of course biological – indicators;
  • find out which market failures public funding should focus on;
  • and find out how to support fisheries-dependent communities more effectively.

So any idea you have, any development, any new avenue of cooperation that may come out of this conference will be more than welcome.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We pride ourselves with a fisheries policy that is grounded in science. Now we need to ensure that this science is up to scratch.

More importantly, let's ensure, together, that the Common Fisheries Policy and its components are deeply rooted in economic and biological ground.

Thank you for your attention.

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