New CFP must be realistic

The fisheries sector is in danger and urgently needs measures to help protect both fish stocks and fishermen, writes Alain Cadec.

By Alain Cadec

19 Oct 2015

Two years ago, the EU adopted an in-depth reform of its common fisheries policy (CFP). The objective for all of us is the sustainable management of fisheries stocks. It is an essential condition for the competitiveness of fishing enterprises. As I often say, without fish, there are no fishermen. 

The new common fisheries policy gives us the means for sustainable management through the principle of maximum sustainable yield: it's about not fishing beyond stock renewal capacities.

Parliament supported simplifying the technical rules. Too often, in fact, fishermen are swamped by regulations so precise and unsuitable that they are impossible to implement. 


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Therefore, we have decided to regionalise the technical rules by adapting them to the specific features of the different fisheries; fishermen will be involved in the preparation of those rules.

The new common fisheries policy comes with a financial instrument, the European maritime and fisheries fund (EMFF), for which I was Parliament's rapporteur. 

Worth €6.5bn, it allows investments in modernising fishing fleets, for example in more selective machines, more energy efficient engines, or more effective safety equipment. It also stresses the control and collection of scientific data, which is essential.

Despite these advances, I am very concerned by one of the major measures of reform of the CFP: the obligation to land all catches. The objective of this measure is to put an end to waste. 

It is true that this is a terrible mess, and one which we cannot accept. But the obligation to land catches is not, in my opinion, a good answer. 

This measure transfers the problem and even creates other ones. It ignores the reality of the fishing occupation and imposes disproportionate constraints. For example, what are we going to do with landed fish which cannot be marketed, particularly young fish? The issue here is that young fish must be landed, but cannot be sold for human consumption.

It will be very difficult to prevent the emergence of illegal parallel markets. This year is a test for this landing obligation. We will have to learn lessons from it for the future.

Fishing is a fine traditional occupation for passionate men and women. It is a difficult job, which supports thousands of families, stimulates coastal regions and helps feed our fellow citizens. But today, it is under threat. 

First of all in the face of competition from third countries. 75 per cent of the fish consumed in Europe does not come from Europe. The sector is also endangered by strict regulations that, too often, forget the realities of the occupation. Additionally, fish stocks are depleting.

Policymakers must meet these challenges. The multi-year management plans provided for by the new CFP must allow us to manage fish stocks in a sustainable way, preserving the competitiveness of fishing enterprises. 

These plans must be introduced, so as to provide a long-term vision for the sector. Responsible fishing is achieved through stable and simple rules, that fishermen must be able to appropriate.

The CFP must also be accompanied by effective controls to ensure the rules are respected. The fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) must be a political priority for the European Union and the member states. 

IUUF is a scourge. It plunders the fish stocks, destroys marine habitats and brings unacceptable unfair competition for the fishermen who respect the rules. In developing countries, it dangerously undermines all the coastal communities. IUUF is often organised crime. We must counter it with all our strength.

The IUUF regulation, which came into force in 2010, is the principal legislation on the subject. It allows for the sanctioning of countries that do not cooperate in the fight against illegal fishing. Several procedures - ranging from a yellow card to a red card - are in progress. 

The European Commission must demonstrate firmness with third countries that do not cooperate in the fight against this type of fishing.

However, I deplore the lack of coordination within the Commission between the fight against IUUF and the negotiation of free trade agreements. 

I am convinced that the launching of a procedure against a third country by way of the IUUF regulation ought to result in the suspension of any commercial negotiation in progress between that country and the European Union. Our credibility depends on it.

 

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