Fisheries council passes EU CFP
The European fisheries council has passed the proposed revision to the E.U.’s common fisheries policy (CFP), but not before proposing changes that will still require further negotiations with the European Parliament before the policy is set in stone.
The policy has long been criticized as being outdated and severely lacking in areas such as regulation of discards. Earlier this year, the parliament passed a new CFP with reforms hailed by NGOs as being a huge step toward sustainable fishing. The CFP then went to the fisheries council, which represents the fisheries ministers of all E.U. member states.
During discussions of the CFP, the Irish E.U. presidency has served as the mediator between the progressive parliament’s proposed CFP, and the council, which supports new measures overall but has shown more resistance to the proposed sweeping changes.
Today, in a press conference announcing the CFP’s passage in the council, Maria Damanaki, European commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, praised the vote.
"Council has made a good step forward and really tried to come closer to the E.U. parliament position in order to find a compromise,” Damanaki said. “I think a deal is possible and I hope we can finalize a first agreement under the Irish Presidency.”
Damanaki, who has been a longtime advocate for sustainable fishing practices, also acknowledged that changes to the CFP may be tough for some fishermen to swallow.
“We need to help our fishermen to adjust to the new situation, because this is a radical change for the way we fish,” she said. “We have to give all possible support to our fisheries sector and our administrations.”
The council made changes to the proposed CFP before voting for it, and so far few details are available on what the council wants, compared to the parliament’s proposed CFP. Because of this, NGOs who reacted to the vote had little to say in detail on the CFP, but still criticized the council for trying to water down the new CFP.
“The devil is in the detail as they say, but in this case it’s the lack of detail, as fisheries ministers decided on a legally neutral text with few binding timelines and concrete measures,” said Roberto Ferrigno, common fisheries policy reform coordinator for the World Wildlife Fund. “If implemented it would enable them to continue badly managing our oceans and ruining our fish stocks for yet another decade. On the opposite side of the coin, the European Parliament demands an ambitious reform that would deliver new fishing laws aimed at restoring fish stocks, through transparency, fixed timelines, accountability and enforceability.”
Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace E.U. fisheries policy director, said the negotiations illustrate how resistant E.U. member states still are to change.
“What is clear, despite the efforts of the Irish E.U. presidency, is that there is still a significant gap between the reluctant stance of some countries and the progressive position of the European Parliament,” Richartz said. “When ministers speak of ‘real and practical solutions,’ they often mean that they have settled for a low level of ambition.”
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, also noted that few details are available yet, but Armstrong said agreements on discards management are a positive step.
“With the political decision to ban discards already taken, we seem to have achieved a mostly common-sense position on its introduction, with the first phase postponed until 2015 and a certain amount of flexibility built into the rest of the program,” Armstrong said.