Giant leap forward for fisheries finance in Europe
April should see adoption of the draft rules for allocating the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), which were approved earlier this year by the European Parliament, Council and Commission, following protracted negotiations between the three political bodies.
EMFF, which has a total budget of GBP 6.4 billion (USD 10.7 million, EUR 7.7 million) to spend between 2014 and 2020, is key to implementing the aims of the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which came into force on 1 January 2014.
This fund will support the rebuilding of fish stocks, reduce the impact of fisheries on the marine environment and assist the progressive elimination of discarding practices. Support will also be given to small-scale fisheries, young fishermen and local fisheries. EMFF aims to boost innovation, help communities to diversify their economies and finance projects that create new jobs. It will also support European aquaculture to fully develop its potential.
EUR 520 million (USD 718 million) is earmarked for the data collection and fisheries management needed to set Maximum Sustainable Yields (MSY), which are the cornerstone of the new CFP.
Under the new CFP, each member state must set sustainable fishing quotas and implement a discard ban for pelagic fish such as herring and mackerel from 2015 — unless specific exemptions apply — and implement a ban for all other species from 2016. To help achieve this, EMFF will support investments in more selective fishing gear, or equipment to facilitate handling, landing and storage of unwanted catches.
As ever, the devil is in the details as they say, and without an implementation plan that can be effectively policed and reinforced, any discard ban is meaningless. And the details are still to be worked out, with high level talks continuing next week in Brussels.
Marine Scotland set up a discard implementation group last summer to engage with the pelagic industry and meets with them each month to build a strategy for implementing the legislation. The Scottish pelagic industry accounts for 44 percent of all landings in Scotland, and is a valuable contributor to the local and national economies.
According to Ian Gatt, CEO of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen’s Association, the clock is ticking for an agreement, as each region’s discard plans have to be submitted to the Commission by June. “I have been meeting with Marine Scotland regularly to ensure that the North Sea and Western waters plans are shaped in a way that means we can comply with the legislation. We have also worked hard for the past year in the Pelagic Regional Advisory Council (PRAC) to create a coherent discard plan, but our efforts have intensified since the start of the year, to meet our internal deadline of 10 April for finalizing the work,” he said. “We really hope that the conclusions and recommendations approved by the RAC will be taken note of in Europe.”
In England and Wales, the U.K. government has just announced public consultations on three new plans to help it comply with the discard ban and other CFP regulations.
“The discard ban is one of the most important changes to fisheries management in the last decade. We fought hard to put an end to the wasteful practice of throwing fish overboard and now we must focus on implementing the discards ban in a way that will work well for English fishermen and help them to profit from the extra catch that they land,” said Fisheries Minister George Eustice.
“We are seeking views on how we should implement the pelagic landing obligation in England, and in particular, on proposed changes to quota management, access to exemptions, monitoring and enforcement, and catch management,” he added.
A second consultation seeks views on the way in which the EMFF fund will be divided up in the U.K., and also asks for constructive criticism and support for the U.K.'s draft Multi Annual National Plan for the Development of Sustainable Aquaculture, which is already the subject of controversy.
The third consultation seeks views on how to implement changes to fish labeling legislation and introduce new laws on marketing standards in England and Wales for fishery and aquaculture products. This is a requirement under the new Common Organization of the Market in fishery and aquaculture products, which also came into force on 1 January 2014, which makes it mandatory to include information on packaging about species, point of origin, and traceability from sea to plate.
“These consultations are a crucial tool in helping us to successfully implement all the reforms, so we can safeguard our marine environment and all those who rely on it,” said Eustice.