The Commission has adopted its annual consultative Communication in preparation of the setting of 2018 fishing opportunities later in the year, which also contains a first state of play of the implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In this public consultation, the Commission asks for the views of Member States, the Advisory Councils, the fishing industry and Non-Governmental Organisations, interested citizens and organisations. The Commission will take the stakeholder input into account when preparing its proposals on fishing opportunities for 2018 and in the context of the future implementation of the CFP.
Why is the Commission changing its annual Communication by adding a state of play on the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy, and on what indicators is the assessment based?
We are now in the fourth year of implementation of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy. This gives us the opportunity to assess progress towards the achievement of its main objectives, notably sustainability. The Communication reports on this by looking at the progress made in the exploitation and state of the stocks, the performance of the EU fleet, the phasing-in of the landing obligation and in terms of governance, that is of decentralising fisheries management – a key shift within the reformed fisheries policy.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy aims at restoring and maintaining fish stocks at maximum sustainable yield levels (MSY) by 2020, so to uphold a profitable fishing industry in EU coastal areas.
What is the state of play on the economic performance of the EU Fleet?
The EU fleet's economic performance has improved significantly in recent years and has a positive impact on many EU coastal communities. The EU fleet registered record net profits of EUR 770 million in 2014 which accounts for a 50% increase over the EUR 500 million of the year before. The economic forecasts for 2016 and 2017 remain upbeat. Average salaries and labour productivity have also increased.
The overall improvement in the EU fleet's profitability coincides with an increase in the number of fish stocks being fished at rates consistent with the objective of achieving Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) and an associated increase in the biomass of these stocks. For example, the increased returns from fishing Haddock at MSY boosted the profitability of the UK fleet, with a net profit margin exceeding 15% in 2015.
Greater fuel efficiency has also contributed to the profitability of the EU fleet. Fuel use intensity decreased by 20% between 2009 and 2014. As an example, the Dutch beam trawlers of 20-24 metres have enjoyed high profitability with a net profit margin of over 20% in 2015 – supported by the change to less fuel-intensive fishing methods.
What are fishing opportunities? How are they set?
Each year the Commission proposes the so-called Total Allowable Catches (TACs) to be applied the following year to most commercial stocks in EU waters except for the Mediterranean Sea. The proposed amounts are based on biological advice and economic analysis from independent bodies. Later in the year and on the basis of the Commission proposals, the Council composed of the Fisheries Ministers of each Member State makes a final decision on these TACs. Once fixed, the amounts are divided up among Member States according to pre-agreed shares, the so-called quotas. Member States manage the national quotas and allocate them among the fishing industry, as a right to fish and land a certain amount of fish within the calendar year. This is how fishing opportunities are set in EU waters.
For fishing opportunities agreed under the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), the Commission negotiates conservation and management issues, including fishing opportunities, for the species managed under the authority of these organisations. The measures adopted by RFMOs, and in particular any fishing opportunities for the EU, are incorporated in the Fishing Opportunities Regulation.
Where does the scientific advice come from?
Fishermen provide data on their catches and fishing activity, which are used by fisheries experts who then assess the state of the stocks. The experts also use samples from commercial landings and from discards, and use research vessels to sample the amounts of fish in the sea in different site and at different times of year. They determine the state of the stock and then calculate how much should be fished the following year to achieve sustainability. This work is done under the coordination of the independent International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) that provides the Commission with independent and authoritative advice. In some cases other advisory bodies, such as the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), are consulted.
What is the basis for the fishing opportunities?
The EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) sets the objective of reaching maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as soon as possible and by 2020 at the latest. MSY translates into delivery of the highest possible long-term catches. At the same time it contributes to the sustainable conservation of the stocks and allows us to fish the maximum possible. The quotas are set with a view to ensuring this yield.
What is the state of play of the landing obligation?
Since 2015, a landing obligation is being introduced gradually, thereby prohibiting the throwing back of fish to the sea once it has been caught. The landing obligation requires all catches of regulated commercial species on-board to be landed and counted against quota, unless an exemption has been introduced in line with the rules in place. These are species under Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas such as mackerel or, in the Mediterranean, species which have a Minimum Landing Size such as gilt-head sea-bream. Undersized fish cannot be marketed for direct human consumption purposes, whilst prohibited species (e.g. basking shark) cannot be retained on board and must be returned to the sea. The discarding of prohibited species should be recorded in the logbook and forms an important part of the science base for the monitoring of these species.
Since 2016, demersal fisheries (for instance hake, cod, haddock, or sole) started to be subject to the landing obligation in the Atlantic waters and the North Sea. This change has implications for the levels of relevant TACs, which can be adjusted according to biological advice to take into account that previously discarded fish is now landed.
Is the policy working?
Yes. In the Northeast Atlantic area (including the North and Baltic Seas), the move towards sustainability is both widespread and visible. While in the early 2000s most stocks were overfished, nowadays more than half of the (assessed) stocks are managed sustainably, and this includes many of the largest and commercially most valuable stocks. This is tangible and important progress towards achieving the objectives of the CFP.
In the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea most stocks are still overfished. While Member States have put in place management plans for their fisheries on a local or regional basis, these have yet to show tangible results. With an improving knowledge base and increasing biological advice for these areas, the challenges for the fisheries in these sea basins are also becoming more obvious.
What measures is the Commission taking with regards to the situation within the Mediterranean and the Black Sea?
The Commission has stepped up efforts to address the situation in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. High-level political agreements to achieve environmental, economic and social sustainability in both sea basins have been reached via the Medfish4Ever Declaration and the Bucharest Declaration.
Another important development is the recent agreement reached by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) on a recovery plan for the Mediterranean Swordfish, which includes Total Allowable Catches. The agreement was put forward by the Commission and adopted last year. This accord will contribute to the recovery of the Mediterranean Swordfish and thus securing the livelihoods of fishermen and coastal communities that rely on this stock.
How does decentralisation of fisheries management work?
The reformed Common Fisheries Policy has shifted to more decentralised governance on the basis of multiannual plans at sea basin level and delegated acts reflecting this regionalisation. Regionalisation is an important element. It gives Member States the possibility to cooperate on a regional basis and agree on Joint Recommendations for achieving the objectives of environmental legislation or for shaping specific discard plans. The Advisory Councils (ACs), stakeholder organisations composed of representatives from the industry and from other interest groups, play a central role in regionalisation, as Member States must consult the ACs on the Joint Recommendations. More generally, the ACs are tasked with providing the Commission and Member States with recommendations and information on fisheries management and the socioeconomic and conservation aspects of fisheries and aquaculture.
For further information
COMMUNICATION FROM THE COMMISSION on the State of Play of the Common Fisheries Policy and Consultation on the Fishing Opportunities for 2018 - COM/2017/0368