NGOs urge European Parliament to push for full implementation of Common Fisheries Policy instead of considering reform
Press Release Date: March 15, 2022
Ahead of the European Parliament’s public hearing on the implementation and future perspectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) tomorrow, NGOs are calling on EU institutions and Member States to better follow and enforce the rules of the policy, rather than considering any reform at this stage.
Vera Coelho, Senior Director of Advocacy at Oceana in Europe, said “The Common Fisheries Policy is fit for purpose – but Member States and EU institutions fail to properly implement it. Engaging in a new reform would distract from taking real action to deliver on the CFP’s commitments to end overfishing, manage fisheries according to ecosystem limits and promote socio-economic benefits. In the current ecological crises and while severe overfishing continues, we have no time for such distractions.”
While it has been in force since 2014, poor implementation of the CFP by the EU and its member countries is preventing its objectives for sustainable fisheries in Europe from being achieved. For example, 43% of fish stocks in the North-East Atlantic and 83% of those in the Mediterranean are still subject to overfishing1.
NGOs are calling for concrete solutions to urgently address the challenges of implementing the CFP. For example, the EU Council, national governments and fishers must work together and follow scientific advice to end overfishing, transition fairly (in terms of socio-economics) to low-impact fisheries to mitigate negative impacts on ecosystems (e.g. bycatch of endangered species), and include a climate component in fisheries management (e.g. lessen the impact of the fishing sector on global greenhouse gas emissions).
Rebecca Hubbard, Programme Director of Our Fish said “While the EU’s fisheries legislation does not mention climate change, it calls for environmental impacts of fishing to be minimised, which clearly includes climate impacts, of which the EU fishing fleet has many. So at this point, we need more delivery of already-made good laws from EU Member States and MEPs, and less blah blah about potential improvements.”
Before considering any reform of the CFP, NGOs state that the European Commission and EU Member States should use the tools already available in the policy and in other legal instruments to properly implement and enforce its rules. The Commission, for example, should use its power to initiate legislative and political action, including legal sanctions against countries who do not abide by the rules.
Antonia Leroy, Head of Ocean Policy at WWF European Policy Office added: “It would be premature to consider the CFP’s objectives as inadequate when some of these objectives, and certain key tools to achieve them, remain generally overlooked. For instance, it is time to dedicate specific quotas to fishers striving to minimise their impact on marine ecosystems, while also making sure that they enjoy a fair standard of living, as called for by the CFP.”
This public hearing will feed into an own-initiative report, led by MEP Gabriel Mato on behalf of the European Parliament (EP), and will express the EP’s position on the CFP and its future. In the meantime, the European Commission is preparing a separate report on the functioning of the CFP, due by the end of December, which will determine the future of the policy.
In addition to its legislative role, the European Parliament is supposed to ensure democratic accountability regarding the protection of the marine environment. Crucially, the EP should scrutinise the progress made in ending overfishing and the situation of fish stocks, as well as the functioning of the fisheries policy as a whole2.
The European Commission is obliged to regularly report to the EP on, for example, fish stock recovery areas and adjustment and management of EU fleets’ fishing capacity3. Further, the Parliament has the power to scrutinise delegated (non-legislative) acts proposed by the Commission, for example by adopting fisheries management for marine protected areas4.
The Common Fisheries Policy is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks. It was reformed in 2013 to put the EU on track to meet its sustainability goals with ambitious objectives and concrete timelines. In the last decade, this led to a reduction in the overfishing rate of some species and an increase in the net profitability of the EU fleet (from being only marginally profitable in 2008).
However, the EU failed to meet its legal commitment in the CFP to end overfishing for all fish populations by 2020 despite repeated warnings by NGOs and scientific reports confirming the trajectory was off course5.
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Joint NGO position paper on the CFP – “Common Fisheries Policy: Mission not yet accomplished”