An overnight series of negotiations by the European Parliament has produced a preliminary agreement on a final version of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) that critics argue is overdue for reform.
Exact details are not available, but a number of activist groups have already come forward to praise progress on the issue, which the parliament and the Council of Ministers, a body made up of ministers from EU member states, have been debating for months.
An official statement from the parliament has not yet been released, but CFP Reform Watch, a website set up by some of the parliament members for tracking the CFP’s progress, indicated that at 3:30 a.m. (CET) on 30 May, the parliament “reached political agreement on the main points” of the CFP with the council. The CFP still needs approval of the Committee of Permanent Representatives, a body representing each of the EU member states.
Key issues for environmental protection groups that have been calling for reform are how to set quotas to protect fish stocks, and management of bycatch and discards.
Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, said she believes the new CFP will allow fish stocks to improve, will promote regionalized management rather than management through top-down directives from Brussels, and stop discards from happening.
“This is a historical step for all those involved in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors,” she said. “We are going to change radically the way we fish in the future.”
Most groups who offered reactions to the latest developments were pleased to see final agreements being worked out, but all of them said they felt stock management reforms would be watered down or delayed, even in the new CFP.
“While almost two-thirds of the assessed fish stocks in the EU are overexploited and many fishermen face bankruptcy, the majority of EU’s governments have decided to stonewall negotiations and have refused to accept an agreement that would allow a full recovery and increased income for fishermen within the next 10 years,” said Tony Long, director of the European office of the World Wildlife Fund.
Despite his objections, Long also praised the parties involved for working toward reforming the CFP and noted on a whole that the agreement is a sign of progress, a sentiment echoed by Greenpeace.
“The deal that is emerging today is good news, even if we are disappointed that ministers blocked a deadline for the recovery of fish stocks,” said Saskia Richartz Greenpeace’s EU fisheries policy director. “For the first time, the EU has recognized the value of low-impact fishermen by highlighting the need for social and environmental criteria in the allocation of fishing quotas.”
And Seas at Risk, a coalition of environmental activist groups in Europe, also issued a statement supporting the agreement.
“For the first time, parliament was a full partner in shaping the common fisheries policy, and I am pleased to see that it has succeeded in safeguarding some of the key elements of its ambitious proposal, withstanding the push of a majority of the council to continue business as usual,” said Monica Verbeek, the coalition’s director.