February 7, 2013
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has been arguably the most dysfunctional of all EU policies. So bad that even EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has not shied away from criticising its damaging impact, especially on the long-term sustainability of fish stocks.
Yesterday, MEPs approved by 502 to 137 votes a set of measures to reform the CFP in what has been widely described as a ‘landmark’ vote. And rightly so, given that the CFP is re-opened for negotiation only every ten years. The measures adopted by MEPs include a number of positive things:
- A timetable for the enforcement of an EU-wide ban on discards of fish. Under the new rules, all fish caught will have to be landed. If enforce propoerly, this should encourage better and more selective fishing techniques.
- 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. For lovers of Brussels acronyms, this is called the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY).
- Annual allocations of fishing quotas will have to be consistent with longer-term management plans for individual fisheries. This is expected to avoid, or at least reduce, the yearly squabbling between national fisheries ministers in Brussels.
- Most importantly, management of fisheries will be largely carried out at the regional level – i.e. member states surrounding a certain sea basin will sort out day-to-day issues among themselves, based on broad principles decided in Brussels.
Now that both national governments and the European Parliament have adopted their negotiating positions, talks will resume. There are still some issues that need to be ironed out. For example, MEPs wants to give the European Commission more power to intervene when member states struggle to reach an agreement among themselves on day-to-day management. The UK and other governments are suspicous that this could lead to more Commission power, not less. Also, MEPs want to be “present” when decisions about quota allocations are taken in the Fisheries Council.
But if one looks at the bigger picture, the reforms adopted yesterday, albeit decades late, are clearly a step in the right direction. And prove that shifting from Brussels-centric micro-management to a healthier and more logic regional-based approach is fully possible when there is the political will to do so.Open Europe blog team