The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a regulation upgrading the EU framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector to support scientific advice regarding the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The JRC will maintain its central role under the new regulation - once adopted - and has been instrumental in the conception of the proposal, building on a longstanding experience in collecting and maintaining fisheries data reported by EU Member States.
The most promising development is that in the future, data will be easily available to anyone who needs it. Currently, data is obtained only upon request. This creates an unnecessary burden for the research institutes and leaving much of the data underutilized. The new system will make it easier to achieve optimal levels that allow fish stocks to regenerate, known as Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY). The aim is to achieve this for all the stocks fished in EU waters by 2020.
The simplification process will make data readily available and will remove overlaps with other EU legislation (e.g. with the statistical Regulations). The scope will be slightly expanded: side-effects of fisheries on the ecosystem will now be recorded, thus facilitating the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
JRC role in fisheries data collection
The JRC is responsible for the collection and maintenance of fisheries data reported by EU Member States since 2005 and will maintain its central role under the new regulation. Through annual data calls to EU Member States, the JRC gathers biological, economic, fishing effort and discard data. It assembles, stores and analyses the data in order to make it available to the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) composed of independent experts and for which the JRC ensures the scientific and administrative secretariat. Challenges addressed by JRC in data collection include the development of quality assurance procedures, common codifications, and aggregation for analysis and assessments. The data are analysed by STECF experts – including from the JRC – and used for scientific analyses and advice in support of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The Common Fisheries Policy
The reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens. It adopts a cautious approach which recognises the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem, seeking to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the practice of discarding unwanted fish.
In this context, the scope of data to be collected under the new Data Collection Framework (DCF) will also relate to impacts of fisheries on ecosystems (e.g. protected species, seabed habitats), impacts of aquaculture (e.g. mortalities/loss and medicines used) and the effects of the landing obligation.
The systematic collection of reliable basic data on fisheries is a cornerstone of fish stock assessment and scientific advice, and consequently for the effective implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy. This new regulation builds on the original EU framework for the collection and management of such data as part of an integrated programme which was set up in 2000 (Council Regulation EC N°1543/2000) and 2008 (Council Regulation EC N°199/2008).