CFP Reform “Wide Open”

26th July 2011 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The final outcome of the CFP reform is wide open; that was the impression left by Lowri Evans, Director General of DG Mare, the EU Directorate that deals with fisheries and marine affairs, when she met with UK stakeholders in London recently.

The Commission’s proposals were published on 13th July but the Director General signalled that the final outcome will be heavily influenced by the positions taken by member states and the European Parliament. A number of UK stakeholders expressed concern about the lack of detail in the Proposals on how CFP decentralisation – one of the main themes in the Commission’s Green Paper – would work in practice.

The NFFO voiced the concern that the model advanced by the Commission, with objectives, targets and timetables set by the European institutions and the responsibility for implementation lying with the member states, bore more than a passing resemblance to the current (and largely discredited) EU Cod Management Plan. It’s one thing for the European institutions (Commission, Council and Parliament) to lay down standards and broad principles; it’s another if they prescribe detailed policy. That would only replace one form of centralised command and control with another.

The DG conceded that there was a risk that the legislators in the member states and Parliament could block the move to effective decentralisation, if they want to retain detailed control. She reaffirmed the Commission’s desire to “move micro-management decisions away from the Co-decision level”.

Other key points in the Director General’s address included:

Reform package Timetable

1st Wave Basic Regulation

Common Organisation of the Market 13th July 2011

External Policy

2nd Wave Financial Package November 2011

Beyond the Basic Regulation Non-legislative developments

Related Policies

Future legislative developmentsMaximum Sustainable Yield

The DG emphasised that MSY was about maximising economic return on fisheries and to achieve that objective, a principle (the WSSD commitment to achieve MSY by 2015, where possible) must be turned into a policy objective.

MSY would allow more fish of a larger size and higher value to be landed

MSY would be part of the application of an ecosystem approach, as a direction rather than as immediate policy. To apply an ecosystem approach it was necessary to have adequate and fairly complete science and we had not yet achieved that.

Eliminating Discards

Avoiding the word “ban”, the DG insisted that in future all catches must be counted against quota. There would be more discussion on how to achieve this in the autumn.

Transferable Concessions

The DG conceded that this part of the Proposal was very controversial in some member states. A forthcoming Court of Auditors report would be very critical of EU money being used to reduce capacity, “because it hasn’t worked”.

The Commission’s proposal contained the best ideas on what could work to reduce overcapacity, drawing heavily on the Danish model

  • Fishing Rights are allocated for a “sufficiently long period”
  • This would incentivise fishermen to “behave in a more long-term way”
  • It would facilitate departures from the industry

It was considered important by the DG that that key issues were addressed at the design stage, notably the safeguards against tradability of quotas extending beyond the fishing industry, rewarding good behaviour and protecting small scale fisheries through a “one -way valve” arrangement.


The CFP, according to the Director General should be based on sound science. At present there were important gaps in the data, high costs and therefore a need to rationalize the science base. One way that this could be achieved could be through less reliance on data-hungry assessment models within a streamlined system.

Social Agenda

Small scale fisheries formed an important part of the Commission’s “social agenda”. Small scale fisheries had an intrinsic link to the community and had an important role to play in a diversified coastal economy. There was a bigger picture that involved catching, processing aquaculture and added value.

The issue of appropriate quota shares was considered to be an area of exclusive member state responsibility.

Producer Organisations

Producer Organisations are seen by the Commission as “key actors” in the decentralisation of the CFP, through the formulation and execution of production and marketing plans, although again the Proposal is vague on how this could be achieved. Their future role, according to the DG, could also lie in increasing added value to the products of their members. There will be much more detail on this topic in the Financial Instrument Proposal.


Although the DG expressed distaste for the word, regionalisation was seen as “removing micro-management from the co-decision level”. “The technical decisions would be delegated to the national level. Regionalisation would be an opportunity, not an obligation. Member states would be empowered but only under conditions established by co-decision. “It will however only work if the member states in Council and the European Parliament don’t want to retain detailed control”.

Financial Package

The replacement for the European Fisheries Fund will run from 2014 to 2020 and will have 6.7 billon euros at its disposal, a 3% increase on the current EFF. The new fund will be rebranded as the Integrated Maritime Programme , although it will primarily be related to fisheries. Its main elements will be:

  • Innovation
  • Greening
  • Inclusive growth
  • Efficient Fleet Subsidies
  • Aquaculture
  • Coastal Communities
  • Production and marketing Plans
  • Cross cutting instruments

Vessel scrapping will not be part of the programme.

External Policy

The DG made clear that it was the Commission’s intention to reform external policy at the same time as CFP reform. In particular:

  • The external dimension would become an explicit part of the CFP
  • For the first time the CFP and External policy would have common goals
  • The focus would be on strategic partnerships and sustainable fisheries agreements
  • The aim would be to export high standards not overcapacity
  • Agreements would have a scientific basis
  • There would be support for fisheries in Third countries
  • Vessel operators would be expected to contribute more to secure access to Third Country waters
  • The Policy would observe human rights


During the question and answer session that followed the DG’s presentation the following issues were raised:

  • Vagueness on decentralisation and regionalisation
  • Overcapacity and tradable concessions
  • 6/12 mile limits
  • Regional Advisory Councils
  • Natura fast track
  • How to achieve robust science
  • MSY
  • Labelling and certification
  • Security of supply
  • Transferable concessions: Neo-liberal on large-scale/protectionist on small scale fleets
  • RFMOs: need for a dispute settlement procedure
  • POs’ future role: need for a real dialogue on co-management