A catch up with EU fisheries policy

EU fisheries have been a huge focus this year on the EU political agenda. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has undergone numerous reforms and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) which provides the money to fund the CFP has also undergone reforms that are still being discussed. This December has been a particularly busy month with regards to both of these, with the annual fisheries council meeting and the final trilogue of the EMFF both taking place. The results? Read on.

In early December, the CFP reforms that were passed back in May this year were finally adopted in a final plenary vote by EU parliament. These reforms include fishing stocks at the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), eliminating discards and moving fisheries management from being centralised and top down to a regionalised approach. This means that from 1st January 2014, the reformed CFP will start to come into practice, although for some measures, such as discards and certain fish species to be fished at MSY, reforms will be implemented in later years through slow integration.  Despite debate over whether these reforms are enough to limit and rectify overfishing, they are at least a step in the right direction and require much greater attention to be paid to fisheries and marine science for decision making.

Following this, the 16th and 17th of December saw the annual fisheries council meeting take place, where member states discuss fish quota allocations for the year ahead.  Several key points arose from the meeting; in 2014, 27 species will be fished at MSY as opposed to the 25 fished at this level in 2013, whilst ‘data poor stocks’ were noted to have decreased from 55 in 2011 to 12 in 2013, signifying a step change that has taken place in relation to monitoring and assessment of fish stocks. The meeting also saw the decision to start the ‘landing obligation’ from 1st January 2015, meaning that fishers will be required to land and report all catch and will face tougher penalties if they don’t conform.

For the UK, Fisheries Minister George Eustice negotiated fish quotas as well as securing UK fishers with the same number of days entitlement to fish as this year. He insisted that he ‘entered these discussions with the firm belief that any decisions on quotas or days spent at sea need to be based on three clear principles; following scientific advice, fishing sustainably and the need for continued reduction in discarding.’

In a press release regarding the council outcomes, Maria Damanaki, the EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, commented: ‘I am pleased because Member States are implementing the reform in advance this year. Ministers have shown that they are willing to implement the reform; the Council has taken the right decisions on implementing MSY, on following long term plans and on moving towards the discard ban.’

However, the news was not so good for negotiations at yesterday’s final EMFF trilogue, despite positive steps and an initial vote in favour of the reforms earlier this year. Reports suggest that the EU commission, parliament and council could not agree on some of the funding allocations, including funding for data collection, and so negotiations broke down. This means that the EMFF will not be implemented on the 1st January 2014 and instead it will be subject to further amendments.

Going into the New Year, it will be crucial for the EMFF to be adopted as swiftly as possible in order to complement the reformed CFP implementation and support its new objectives. Whilst it is disappointing news that the funding of the EMFF has not been decided, the perhaps more important CFP reforms have been successfully agreed and will now be put in place. This hopefully signifies the start of a much more sustainable future for EU fisheries.