Open Europe Blog

As part of the latest cabinet reshuffle, Richard Benyon is leaving his post as UK Fisheries Minister:

As he returns to the backbenches, it’s worth highlighting how Mr Benyon – with the support of MPs on the EFRA Committee, who also produced some substantial work on this issue – played a pivotal role in one of the first cases of EU decentralisation and reform, with responsibilities flowing from Brussels to member states. By leading the way in reforming the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – until recently possibly Brussels’ silliest policy of the lot – he did show that it’s possible for the UK to forge alliances and achieve real change.

As a quick reminder, the reformed CFP is due to enter into force on 1 January 2014 – following final approval from national governments and MEPs. The most significant changes include:

  • A ban on discard of unwanted fish, which is to be gradually enforced between 2015 and 2019. This means fishermen will be obliged to land all the fish they catch and count it against their fishing quotas – and will go a long way to end the ridiculous practice whereby fishermen in some cases threw back 90% of the fish caught. 
  • Greater regionalisation of decision-making. Basically, member states bordering a certain sea basin will sort out day-to-day technical issues among themselves, based on broad principles decided in Brussels. However, the allocation of fishing quotas will remain a centralised process (so there’s still scope for some reform here).
  • From 2015, and by 2020 at the latest, EU fishermen will not be allowed to catch more than a given fish stock can reproduce in a given year – under the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) principle.
  • Annual allocations of fishing quotas will have to be consistent with longer-term management plans for individual fisheries. The rationale behind this is to try and avoid, or at least reduce, the yearly squabbling between national fisheries ministers in Brussels.

The European Commission – DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries – should be given some credit as well since it actually had the courage to table a proper reform proposal. This is also an example of where Berlin and London hooked up to outflank the Mediterranean bloc.

So UK ministers, Brussels, Berlin and everyone else – take note.

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