EU fisheries ministers initiate CFP reform

Fisheries ministers are one step closer to “real and meaningful” reform of the Europe Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), said EU Marine Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg on Monday after a council meeting in Brussels.

The ministers met to exchange views on the European Commission’s green paper released last month, which underlined the need for reform to the existing fisheries regime.

The green paper identified five key failings in the CFP, including a deep-rooted problem of fleet overcapacity, imprecise policy objectives and a framework that fails to give sufficient responsibility to the industry.

According to the EC, EU ministers displayed “a clear commitment to approach reform with an open mind and to examine all aspects” of the CFP at Monday’s meeting.

Borg presented to the ministers a new approach to the highly-criticised problem of discards and the need to eradicate the practice. A radical change of the TAC (total allowable catch) system or a full discard ban “must be decided in the context of a major overhaul of the CFP,” said Borg.

Also at Monday’s meeting, Borg tabled a mix of measures, including banning high-grading, licensing vessels according to likely catches, improving the selectivity of fishing gear, and using new instruments such as real-time closures.

The World Wildlife Fund has been calling on the ministers to introduce a discards policy that limits the actual amount of fish harvested rather than focussing on the quantity of fish landed. According to the conservation organization, by the end of 2008 more than 28,000 metric tons of cod will be discarded, even though the EU committed last year to reduce discards to 10 percent.

The introduction of rules for selective fishing gear in a number of fisheries could reduce the amount of cod, haddock and whiting caught as bycatch, if properly implemented, said the WWF.

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