“Decrepit,” “broken” and “failure” are three somber words frequently used to describe the current EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). But while widespread public calls for wholesale policy overhaul persist, behind closed doors there remains considerable political resistance to Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki’s reform proposals.
Damanaki spent much of the first half of last year touring Europe to secure support for her much-anticipated CFP reform proposals. But when these proposals were eventually published in July of last year they failed to impress many of the groups that had rallied behind the commissioner. These supporters were aggrieved that the proposals didn’t go far enough.
Included in the reform package were the following key elements:
• All fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015;
• An ecosystem approach for all fisheries with long-term management plans; and
• The practice of discarding will be phased out and fishermen will be obliged to land all their catch.
Also included were targets and timeframes to stop overfishing; market-based approaches such as individual tradable catch shares; support measures for small-scale fisheries; improved data collection; and strategies to promote sustainable aquaculture.
The United Kingdom has considerable interest in CFP reform because in tonnage terms it has the EU’s second-largest fishing fleet. But U.K. Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon — one of Damanaki’s most ardent supporters — confesses he was “slightly worried” by the lack of depth in the proposals for moving sufficient decision-making away from Brussels’ “micro-management.”
“I wanted them to be slightly stronger,” says Benyon. “I think it’s absolutely vital to move away from a one-size-fits-all approach of managing fisheries from the sub-Arctic north down to the Mediterranean. As we all know, it’s a completely crazy system. It’s also absurd having mesh sizes decided so remotely.
“I want us to develop a common framework, to be rid of the unnecessary, overarching rules that govern fisheries. Many unnecessary decisions are made in the Commission and I want to see these devolved so we have a greater regional management of stocks.”
He continues: “I want to see fishermen who have an entitlement to fish. If they invest in the size of the biomass of the stocks they are fishing, then it’s absolutely in their interest to see the size of that biomass increase.”