Oceana: reform of EU fleet management strongly needed to effectively tackle overcapacity and rebuild fish stocks

Despite billions invested to reduce EU fishing fleet, report concludes it is still oversized.

Press Release Date: December 12, 2011

Location: Madrid


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

Today, the European Court of Auditors (ECA) released their long-awaited analysis of the effectiveness of EU fleet management, which shows the systematic failure of fleet capacity reduction policies. Oceana is deeply concerned that even though the problematic nature of overcapacity has been recognized for over 20 years, the EU has been unable to properly address it and as such has failed to reverse the depleted state of European fish stocks. According to the report, the EU has neither assessed nor defined overcapacity since 1995, yet between 1994 and 2013, 1.6 billion euros will have been allocated to the scrapping of vessels to reduce fishing capacity.

Overcapacity not only increases pressure on policy makers to disregard scientific advice and set unsustainable fishing opportunities but it also encourages IUU fishing, stated Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana Europe.Without an appropriate framework that links the management of fishing capacity directly to the state of the harvested stocks, overfishing will continue.”

Fishing capacity is currently measured by gross tonnage (GT) and engine power (KW), which are inadequate to provide an idea of the real fishing capacity as it does not take into account the efficiency of the vessel to catch fish or the effect of technological improvements. For example, while fleet capacity was reduced by 29% in terms of GT and KW between 1992 and 2008, technological improvements are estimated to have increase capacity by 14% in the same period. By acknowledging the inaccuracy of the way fishing capacity is being measured, the report also recognizes the inefficiency of the mechanisms that are currently in place to reduce overcapacity such as capacity ceilings and entry-exit regimes.

Establishing a framework to measure real fishing capacity is vital to fisheries management. The ECA report however, supports the Commission’s proposal for a system of “Transferable Fishing Concessions” (TFC). Oceana does not believe that TFCs will decrease real fishing capacity or effort. Instead, a science-based assessment of fleet capacity should be undertaken on a fishery by fishery basis, in order to then properly distribute the access to that fishery.

A CFP reform cannot succeed if science-based solutions are disregarded. Unfortunately decision making based on scientific assessments is completely neglected in the current CFP discussions,” concluded Pastor. Tackling overcapacity is not just about scrapping vessels with public funds; it should start with limiting the number of vessels with access to a fishery in order to guarantee that they harvest the marine resources in sustainable quantities.”

Learn More: European Court of Auditors Report