MPs Briefed on CFP Reform

14th July 2011 in Domestic Fisheries Policy, Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The NFFO and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation recently jointly briefed MPs on the Commission’s proposals for CFP reform and what they could mean for the UK fishing industry.

A meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Fisheries Group, convened in one of the committee rooms in the House of Commons, was devoted to analysing the reform package in depth and discussing its implications.

The MPs shared the Federation’s views that there is a long way to go before the package could be said to represent a viable way forward for European fisheries.

Also of shared concern was the perception that the central theme in the Commission’s decentralisation proposals would be a delegation of decision-making responsibility from the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament to the Commission – in effect just a different kind of top-down centralised system of control. By contrast the proposals for a greater degree of real management decisions at regional seas level are vague and unclear.

In fairness, the proposal for a new basic regulation for the CFP represents a framework and much of the detail will require secondary legislation. However, it is already clear that there are grounds for fears that the CFP reform is set to follow the model of the current cod management plan where objectives, targets and timetables are set centrally, with a subordinate and highly constrained role for the member states in implementing the rules that determined from above. We already know and STECF/ICES will shortly confirm that this is a model that has failed to achieve its objectives.

The Commission’s Green Paper on CFP reform identified over-centralisation and micromanagement as a core reason why the current CFP has repeatedly failed to achieve its objectives. To that extent the Commission’s proposal is a disappointment which unless amended by the member states and European Parliament, will again lead to the CFP failing to achieve its objectives. Writing rules in Brussels is one thing; delivering effective fisheries management across many complex and diverse and fisheries is another, which is why the argument for a radically decentralised CFP, albeit subject to standards and principles lain down at European level remains the, so far unfulfilled, goal for so many at fisheries level.

The MPs raised questions on:

  • The UK Government’s arrangements for working with the fishing industry on shaping the future Policy
  • The alignment of other member states on the key elements of the reform package
  • How the focus on discards could be moved from superficial headlines to substance
  • The dangers of defining the small-scale fleet in crude terms convenient for bureaucrats but incomprehensible in the field
  • The limits of an approach based on political will and a big stick
  • The importance of maintaining flexibility for the fleets to change grounds and target species

This was a useful opportunity to update MPs and to seek their support as the reform process gathers pace.