Self- Regulation: An Alternative to Fisheries Micro-management

2nd March 2009 in Advisory Councils

The Commission’s proposal for a new Control Regulation has triggered a strong reaction that, along with the forthcoming reform of the CFP, could have long-term repercussions.

The Proposal was discussed at the recent meeting of the North Sea RAC in Berlin, and apart from disbelief at the backward looking tone of the document, the RAC expressed a will to develop a workable, viable, alternative. One participant in the RAC meeting noted that in our kind of societies it is not usual for policemen to write the rules; yet this is what appears to be happening in the case of this Regulation.

There is strong support for a move away from the type of command and control, micro-management, that characterises the present CFP, and the proposed control regulation, to one in which the fishing industry would itself develop and apply management plans, within a broad framework of principles and standards for sustainable fisheries.

What emerged from the Berlin meeting was that there is a real appetite and will for a different system that would transfer responsibility to the industry within a framework that provides important safeguards.

Work has only really just begun on how such a system would work in practice. However some broad outlines are emerging:

  • Industry groupings would develop, and submit for approval, plans that detail how their vessels will operate sustainably and profitably for the next five years or so
  • The plans would be required to meet broad principles and standards of sustainable fisheries; these would be established by the Commission, Council of Ministers, European Parliament after discussion with the RACs
  • The management plans would be developed in cooperation with fisheries scientists and fisheries economists
  • They would be audited periodically to ensure that the terms of the plans are being followed
  • It would be the industry’s responsibility to provide the monitoring and documentation that demonstrate that the fleets are operating in conformity with the plans
  • Under this new regime there would be no need for the multitude of technical and control rules that currently defeat fishermen, fisheries managers and enforcement authorities. The individual plans would spell out the gear and self imposed constraints that would apply to the vessels in the grouping.

Although this is the broad outline of a system of fisheries self-regulation, clearly much detail still needs to be worked out. For this reason the North Sea RAC has decided to convene a dedicated meeting in April to progress the issue.

What gives this initiative special impetus is that there is an expectation that the forthcoming review of the CFP will afford opportunities for such self regulation arrangements; the more concrete the ideas the RACs can put forward, the more rapidly the move from micro-management to self regulation will proceed.