EC wants decentralised, simplified fisheries conservation

Published on
March 14, 2016

The European Commission (EC) has published a proposal for new conservation measures for fisheries in European seas as part of its commitment to “better regulation.” Included in the plan are new rules on how, where and when fishermen may fish, also determining gear, catch composition and ways to deal with accidental catches.

Up until now, these rules have been decided at EU level through a lengthy adoption process, and over the years this regulatory structure has become highly complex.

"With this proposal we ensure that our objectives for sustainable fisheries and the protection of marine habitats are reached throughout the EU. Its 'regionalized approach' simplifies the rules, in line with our better regulation agenda. It allows for fisheries management decisions to be made locally, closer to the people they affect," said Karmenu Vella, EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries.

The EC’s better regulation scheme is about designing EU policies and laws so that they achieve their objectives at minimum cost. It ensures that policy is prepared, implemented and reviewed in an open, transparent manner, informed by the best available evidence and backed up by involving stakeholders.

With the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and to comply with the better regulation agenda principle and the REFIT (regulatory fitness and performance) program, the Commission has tabled a more flexible system of governance, empowering regional actors, who know their local context best, to customize technical conservation measures in their own sea basins.

The proposal also condenses a number of distinct regulations into one single text, which should ease interpretation and facilitate compliance.

The EU will prescribe the general principles and the overall objectives of fishing activities; there will still be a set of basic rules that will be applicable to prohibited fishing gear or the protection of certain species and habitats. However, for technical measures that affect a specific sea basin, national governments and operators will be able to customize the proposed rules to the local context so as to achieve the desired results.

If, for example, a specific fishing area needs to be closed to protect a particular habitat, such as a sensitive coral reef, or if derogations need to be allowed for specific vessels that do not impact the seabed, all this can be done through technical measures decided by the member states around that sea basin, in consultation with their stakeholders.

The proposal includes measures for the protection of the marine ecosystem and marine habitats and for avoiding by-catches of non-commercial and sensitive species, such as seabirds and mammals.

Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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