Oceana Half-hearted Common Fisheries Policy proposal fails to deliver necessary solutions for depleted EU seas

Outlined discard ban applies to less than 26% of all currently commercially exploited species.

Press Release Date: July 13, 2011

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Proposal changes nothing for 3/4th of species commercially exploited without management measures.

Today, the Commission presented its proposal for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in what marks the beginning of a nearly 20-month process that will involve European parliamentarians, and ministers from the 27 EU Member States, among many others. The proposal takes some positive steps with its commitment to achieve levels above Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015 and rightly raises both the ecosystem based and precautionary approaches to the level of guiding principles of fisheries management. Nevertheless, Oceana views this proposal as an incomplete work that does not provide the urgently needed strong solutions to restore European seas and ensure the long term sustainability of fishing activities. The half-hearted text also lacks plans of action to implement existing binding commitments that achieve these aims.

“On a positive note, this proposal shows a clear intention to shift fisheries management towards a long term perspective from the previous decade’s unsustainable model,” said Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “However, given the Commission’s strong words in previous months on their commitment to the marine environment and to restoring dwindling European fish stocks, this proposal lacks the much needed solutions for our oceans. It is now up to the Parliament and Member States to ensure that this reform sets Europe on the right path to sustainable fisheries.”

Oceana considers the proposal to be a step forward from the failed 2002 CFP, and acknowledges the positive steps taken towards an ecosystem-based management and the implementation of a precautionary approach. However, the international marine conservation organization also highlights the following areas of concern in the Commission text:

Ecosystem based approach and Precautionary approach: The proposal rightly raises these approaches to the level of guiding principles of fisheries management, as is consistent with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), thereby setting the CFP on a path towards the sustainable management of fisheries. Unfortunately, the text is lacking the key element of the MSFD requirement, which is the obligation to achieve good environmental status by 2020, and the mechanism ensuring the appropriate implementation of an ecosystem based management, showing a flaky commitment to a directive which the EU is bound to.

Discards: Given Commissioner Damanaki’s strong stand to end this wasteful practice, it is perhaps the most shocking that this proposal’s solution to the discard problem is riddled with holes. The outlined ban only applies to a limited number of fish stocks, completely ignoring all species that are currently exploited but lack management plans. In addition, the Commission’s proposal doesn’t establish any mechanisms to deal with landed by-catch: Oceana believes that this type of catch should not enter the markets, and its commercialization should not in any way constitute a direct economic incentive to the fishermen.

Species Management: A CFP that ignores approximately 74% of species currently exploited by European fleets without any management measures cannot in any way call itself a comprehensive policy. To truly tackle overfishing and ensure the sustainable exploitation of fisheries, this proposal must require management measures for all commercial species.

Transferable Fishing Concessions: The current capacity of the EU’s fishing fleet is 2 to 3 times higher than our waters can provide fish to them sustainably. The Commission’s solution however is to create a market for fishing rights given to fishermen for 15 years without imposing any set of restrictions. Oceana believes this plan only responds to the need of providing economic solutions for the sector, without discriminating between the more sustainable practices, while removing responsibility from the Administration and placing its trust (and the future of fish stocks) into the hands of the market.

Learn More: Oceana’s 10 Recommendations for the Common Fisheries Policy

Learn More: Oceana’s Recommendations on discards management

Learn More: Oceana’s submission to the Commission consultation on the Green Paper of the CFP Reform (2009)