By Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris
Published on 22 October, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on Common Fisheries Policy reform. Look for Part 2 on Wednesday.
“The crunch time for decisions is now fast approaching,” said Franz Lamplamair, advisor for fisheries policy at the European Commission.
Speaking to an audience of stakeholders at a London seminar on reform to the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in October, Lamplamair underlined timing as a critical issue. "We have a proposal for a fisheries fund out there which has to be in place before January 2014."
Put simply, if the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund is not in place before 2014, there will be no money to accompany a reformed CFP. In parallel, reform to the CFP, revised every 10 years, is also behind deadline.
Ongoing discussions between member states signal political consensus for European fisheries policy is still at the mercy of national interests, despite the wider sustainability context.
"We've seen people [France, Spain, Belgium, even Estonia] wanting to re-introduce medicines already shelved by the Commission," such as aid for scrapping vessels, even subsidies for new vessels. "In light of overcapacity, this is just absurd," said Lamplamair.
The three legislative proposals to reform Europe's fisheries sector that are being debated are: A proposal for the so-called basic regulation, which is the framework regulation for the policy (COM(2011) 425); the proposal for a new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) (COM(2011) 804); and the proposal for a new regulation on the common organization of the markets in fishery and aquaculture products.
Taking a closer look at the pillars to reform, according to Lamplamair, the good news is "We have a very broad support and agreement by the vast majority of member states" to go for a discard ban, not only for a discard reduction. An extremely controversial practice of returning unwanted fish to sea, the Commission estimates 23 percent of total catches are discarded, “substantially more in some fisheries.”
"This is a very, very big step … a sea-change," he said.
Secondly, said Lamplamair, the principle of MSY (maximum sustainable yield) for fisheries has been accepted by EU member states, and now needs to be enshrined in legislation. The Commission proposed in its reform that by 2015, stocks must be exploited at sustainable levels, defined as the highest catch that can be safely taken year after year that maintains the fish population size at maximum productivity.
Thirdly, regionalization and the end to micromanagement from Brussels. "It is now common ground. There is a lot to be said and done with the details but this is something that has been accepted, and that everybody wants," said Lamplamair.
Finally, the international dimension: Among EU member states, it would appear, there is a “wide consensus today that we need to do more to achieve worldwide sustainable fisheries,” said Lamplamair.
He voiced the disappointment of the Commission that their proposition for mandatory transferable fishing concessions (TFC) failed to be taken on board.
"Sadly, the TFC's we proposed as one of the answers to better managed fleets, and to achieve a balance between fleet and fishing opportunities, was rejected as a mandatory system," he said.
Although, he added, Parliament's rapporteur's Rodust report says that while TFCs are voluntary, if, after six years member states do not manage to get rid of their overcapacity, then in some segments concessions would be obligatory.