Fisheries policy package adopted on 21 February 2023
Communication on the functioning of the common fisheries policy
Fishers, civil society, Member States and the scientific community have contributed to the recovery of many fish stocks in the EU sea basins in recent years. However, more effort is needed to fully implement the CFP. This will contribute to a healthier marine environment and will maintain the profitability of the sector in the coming decades. Along with other priorities, it is crucial to support the revitalisation of coastal communities and improve their economic prospects with more innovation and technology.
Protecting marine ecosystems
With the marine action plan, the Commission aims to reinforce the CFP’s contribution to the EU’s environmental objectives. A healthy marine environment with healthy fish stocks and rich biodiversity is the only way to ensure a prosperous future for EU fisheries communities in the medium and long-term.
Energy transition in the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector
The objective of the energy transition initiative is to have a climate neutral fisheries and aquaculture sector by 2050. The Commission is proposing measures to support the sector in accelerating its energy transition, by improving fuel efficiency and switching to renewable, low-carbon power sources. One of the key actions of this plan is the set-up of an Energy Transition Partnership for EU Fisheries and Aquaculture. It will bring together all stakeholders, including in fisheries, aquaculture, shipbuilding, ports, energy, NGOs, national and regional authorities, to collectively address the challenges of the sector’s energy transition.
Common market organisation
Following the 2013 reform, the common market organisation regulation (CMO) has lived up to the objective of seamless seafood supply to consumers. The transition from an intervention-based market policy inherited from the common agriculture policy to a market-oriented dynamic, driven by empowered market actors, has been crucial to ensuring long-term sustainability and profitability of the sector.
What is the CFP?
Originally part of the common agricultural policy (CAP), the common fisheries policy (CFP) started with the same objectives
- to increase productivity
- to stabilise the markets
- to provide a source of healthy food and
- to ensure reasonable prices for consumers
In the course of time, the CFP obtained a separate identity: a specific legislation and structural policy for fisheries, in particular the common market organisation, was introduced in 1970.
As more and more countries joined what is now the EU, some with important fisheries resources and fleets, it was also necessary to deal with specific fisheries problems such as the conservation of resources and international relations after the introduction of the exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
With the latest reform from 2013, the common fisheries policy is the first comprehensive legal framework, featuring
- attention to the environmental, economic and social dimensions of fisheries
- fish stock management at maximum sustainable yield for all managed stocks
- gradual introduction of a landing obligation by 2019
- continued application of the so-called multiannual plans (MAPs) to manage fisheries in different sea basins
- regionalisation to allow EU countries with a management interest to propose detailed measures, which the Commission can then adopt as delegated or implementing act and transpose them into EU law
- fleet capacity ceilings per EU country in combination with the obligation for EU countries to ensure a stable and enduring balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities over time. EU countries may need to develop action plans to reduce overcapacity (for which they can use scrapping money)
Revision of the fisheries control system
After the evaluation of the current control system, the Commission decided in 2018 to initiate a revision of the fisheries control system. The overall objective of the revision is to modernise, strengthen and simplify the EU fisheries control system, ensure sustainability and increase the level playing field in fisheries control. The revision is in line with the EU's REFIT programme, a programme that ensures that regulatory burdens are minimised and simplification options are identified and applied.
The Commission's proposal to revise the fisheries control system is adopted on 30 May 2018.
The Commission decides to propose a number of changes to the control regulation, as well as targeted amendments to the regulation on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing(IUU regulation) and to the EFCA founding regulation.
The current CFP is adopted in December 2013, becoming applicable as of 1 January 2014.
It focuses on the management of fisheries (whereas earlier CFP regulations focused only on stock conservation), and it includes aquaculture. Achieving maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020, and having healthy fish stocks form the guiding principles of the 2013 CFP. Based on scientific advice, fishing must be adjusted to bring exploitation to the levels that maximise yields within the boundaries of sustainability.
The Commission launches a reflection on further reforming the CFP in 2008, leading to the adoption of a Green Paper on the reform of the CFP the following year. A broad consultation process lead to the adoption of Commission proposals for a new Basic Regulation and a new Common Market Organisation in July 2011.
The 2002 reform allows for some further progress, but does not lead to a sustainable recovery – 88% of stocks are still overfished.
Three years after the 1995 revision, the Commission asks a group of experts to review the policy. The group concludes that a draconian reduction of the fleet is urgently needed considering: 40% overcapacity, a huge disequilibrium between fishing capacity and available resources, despite limited nominal reductions no significant real capacity reduction under the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP)'s.
The 1992 revision and the new basic regulation now focuses on a “rational and responsible exploitation” of resources, while recognising the interest of the fishing industry to ensure its long-term development and economic and social conditions and the consumers’ interest, “taking into account the biological constraints as well as respect for the marine ecosystem”.
The short-term goals of the 1992 reform are to
- reduce the fishing to levels consistent with sustainability
- reduce the size of fleets to levels consistent with sustainability
- reduce the employment in a controlled manner and provide alternative work in fishing-dependent areas.
The strategy consists of mandatory reduction of fleet capacity in combination with structural measures to alleviate the social consequences (both scrapping subsidies and other social measures). Next to TACs, the concept of fishing effort is introduced to help attain the balance between the fishing activities and the available resources. Access to specific waters or fisheries became increasingly subject to fishing permits.
The CFP has to adapt first to the withdrawal of Greenland (in 1985) and then the accession of Spain and Portugal (in 1986) and the reunification of Germany (in 1990). All three events have a serious impact on the size and structure of the European fleet and its catch capacity.
The Council adopts the first basic regulation of the CFP. The regulation confirms the commitment to the EEZ and includes measures for conservation and management of the fisheries resources, based on the so-called Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas. It also establishes a concept of relative stability.
The 1983 policy also introduces a comprehensive structural policy, with measures to manage the fleet capacity on the one hand, while at the same time granting subsidies for the building and modernisation of vessels.
Gradually, both the TACs and the Multi-Annual Guidance Programmes (MAGP) for fleet management are tightened. Technical measures, such as the introduction of areas with limited access and technical requirements such as minimum mesh sizes for fishing nets are introduced to protect juvenile fish.
The power to adopt conservation measures passes from individual EU countries to the EC.
EU countries retain powers to introduce limited measures, which are non-discriminatory (treating all EU-fishermen equally) and necessary for conservation goals.
With the adoption of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the principle of jurisdiction by the coastal state concerned over the management of marine resources within its EEZ is established.
The Council adopts a specific legislation, the common market organisation, and puts in place a structural policy for fisheries.
Euronews Ocean: The European fishermen in need of a safety net
In this episode, the OCEAN crew follows a typical day onboard an offshore aquaculture vessel in Emilia-Romagna, Italy, explaining the risks and difficulties of fishers’ work, and show some examples of how the EU support helps improve the working conditions and safety of fishers.
Euronews Ocean: The invisible women of Europe's fishing industry
In this episode, Euronews travels to Spain, in Galicia and Vigo, to meet women who make a living by working in different fields of the fishing sector. From shellfish gatherers, net menders or women who work in the seafood processing sector, they all challenge the stereotypes and build successful professions or businesses.