The Common Fisheries Policy after 2012

24th November 2008 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

The NFFO has secured a place on an influential committee that will make recommendations on changes to the CFP after 2012.

The Common Fisheries Policy after 2012

The European Commission is gearing up to propose major changes and has issued a strangely provocative document to begin a debate. The report portrays an excessively pessimistic picture of European fish stocks. It is also remarkable for attaching blame to various parties deemed to be responsible for the circumstances that led recently to a highly critical report on the CFP by the European Court of Auditors.

The Council of Ministers, member states and the fishing industry are all blamed for the failure of the CFP to deliver sustainable fishing. The Commission is not however noticeably critical of its own role in overseeing the cumbersome and unresponsive system that lies at the root of most of the CFP’s failings. In more reflective times, a senior Commission official has admitted that “95% of what is wrong with the CFP is an absence of good governance”.

The Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture (ACFA) advises the Commission and it is through a working group set up under ACFA that the Federation will be able to influence the recommendations put forward to the Commission. Prior to the 2002 reform of the CFP, the NFFO sat on a similar group and pressed hard for a regional focus for the CFP and greater influence for stakeholders. The result was the establishment of the regional advisory councils that now play a significant role in policy formation. There is every reason therefore, to use this round of reform as a platform for positive change, although the proposed reform is not without its risks

The major themes which the Commission wants to explore during the forthcoming consultation, which will take most of 2009, are:

  • Replacing the principle of relative stability and national quotas
  • Introducing some form of “rights based management” ( perhaps international ITQs)
  • A separate regime inside and outside the 12 mile limit
  • Reducing the scope for the Council of Ministers (and the European Parliament if there is a move to co-decision making) and therefore democratic scrutiny of legislation
  • Stronger links between fisheries and other parts of Community legislation, in particular environmental policies
  • A fast track system of decision making in which the Commission would have a freer hand
  • To explore whether there is scope to strengthen the role of regional advisory councils
  • A system of “results based management” in which standards and principles are set by the Council but it is left to the fishing industry to define the detail of how these objectives are to be met.

Clearly there will be areas in which the Commission’s ambitions will have to be strongly resisted but on this latter point there may well be a way to escape the highly prescriptive, often inappropriate and undeniably complex rules that are not noticeably effective, yet plague the fishing industry on a daily basis.

Changing the Commission’s role from managers of detail to one of refereeing, auditing and overseeing the CFP, would be a major step forward and would be more consistent with the Commission’s size, experience and geographical location.