CFP Reform: Critical Decisions Imminent

13th May 2013 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 13th and 14th June could turn out to be a pivotal point in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Federation presses for workable rules

The Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 13th and 14th June could turn out to be a pivotal point in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Amidst signs of a willingness by the European Parliament to make meaningful concessions to reach agreement, and the Irish Presidency ‘s determination to forge a deal, the odds now appear to be in favour that the Council will agree a revised negotiating mandate.

However, important issues remain to be settled, not least on regionalisation, the discards ban and maximum sustainable yield. The European Parliament, which has no responsibility for implementing the agreed measures, has tended to be rather doctrinaire on these issues, whilst the member states and even the Commission, do seem to have some awareness that legislating is the start of a process not the end.

An NFFO delegation will travel to Brussels for the Council and will brief Fisheries Minister, Richard Benyon, on the industry’s priorities throughout the negotiations. Above all, the Federation will stress that what is agreed must be workable and practical. Obliging fisheries managers and fishermen to achieve MSY biomass targets when these may be influenced as much by nature as by fishing is to fail to understand the basics of fisheries science.

Likewise, unless practical and realistic ways of implementing a landings obligation are made available, the result will be a confusing car crash of regulation which could produce as many perverse as positive consequences. This has been the central lesson from the last 20 years of the Common Fisheries Policy. Although, it has not been one of the CFP reform issues hogging the media spotlight, effective regionalisation of decision making is the key to a move to a more responsive, adaptable and therefore effective policy.

Member states cooperating at regional seas level, working closely with the regional advisory councils on the content of multi-annual management plans, offer a much brighter future than the top-down approach that we have struggled under to date. It is crucially important that the reform provides an adequate legislative permissive form for this to happen, even if the decisions then have to be endorsed by the cumbersome co-decision process, or powers delegated to the Commission.