Green paper on the future of the common fisheries policy

Green paper on the future of the common fisheries policy

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Green paper on the future of the common fisheries policy


These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.


Green paper on the future of the common fisheries policy (CFP)

1) Objective

To launch a public consultation to determine the nature of the future common fisheries policy (CFP), in order to place it in a better position to ensure its general objective, namely a sustainable use of resources. To achieve this, the Commission green paper proposes a perspective based on an analysis of the current situation and the various possible developments or reactions within the fisheries sector.

2) Community Measure

Green paper of 20 March 2001 on the future of the common fisheries policy.

3) Contents

The CFP has produced positive results for the last twenty years. It has succeeded in restraining conflicts at sea, providing a certain stability within the fisheries sector, preventing the total collapse of stocks, etc.
However, these results do not hide the deficiencies of the CFP, which is now, therefore, facing major challenges requiring in-depth reform.

The CFP’s main challenge is to conserve fish stocks.
There are also external challenges regarding the forthcoming enlargement of the European Union, globalisation of the economy, the emergence of new stakeholders within the fisheries sector, the growing number of environmental issues in the administration of fisheries, etc.
More specifically, the green paper deals with the conservation of fishery resources, environmental considerations, fleet management, governance, monitoring and control, economic and social issues, aquaculture, international implications and, finally, Mediterranean policy.
These aspects are analysed in turn below, in terms of both the present situation and prospects for the future.

The CFP will need to find adequate solutions to this inexhaustive list of problems; solutions which must conform to the general objectives of the fisheries policy. These objectives are listed in the EC Treaty and in the Regulation establishing a Community system for fisheries and aquaculture.


The situation at present

  • Durability of stocks
    There are a large number of stocks whose volume is currently below what is biologically reasonable. These stocks are subject to excessive exploitation or characterised by small quantities of adult fish, or both. The following is a brief analysis of the situation of the various stocks:
    demersal roundfish stocks (fish dependent on sea beds, such as cod, haddock, sea breams, groupers, red mullet, etc.) are now the most endangered;
    benthic resources (species attached to sea beds or living on sea bed sediments, such as Norway lobster, sole, turbot. etc.) show overall excessive economic exploitation, although this is less disastrous than for demersals;
    pelagic stocks (species with little contact with sea beds, such as tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, etc.) are less affected as a result of the various measures taken to increase their numbers.
  • Management of stocks
    The CFP did not implement all the tools which could have been used in accordance with the Regulation introducing a Community system for fisheries and aquaculture. Indeed, to control the use of stocks it almost always placed a ceiling on the annual fishing quantities allowed (total allowable catches, or TACs). It also endeavoured to include other measures concerning the fishing effort (fishing effort meaning the capacity of a vessel in terms of tonnage and power multiplied by the activity expressed as time at sea); however, progress remained limited.
    These mixed results are the consequence, among other things, of:
    – difficulties with TACs (sometimes set by the Council at a rate higher than scientists recommended; overfishing; unrecorded landings, etc.);
    – the complexity of the regulations (technical measures which differ according to the geographical sectors, etc);
    – the weakness of scientific advice and information (limited number of experts in fishery matters, absence of reliable data on catches and exact point of capture, lack of analysis of economic aspects of fisheries, etc.).


  • Reinforcing and improving the conservation of fishery resources

    Although there is no single solution to the conservation problems, four basic courses of action are possible:
    – managing of TACs and quotas on a multiannual basis, managing groups of stocks containing several species, and ecosystem management (i.e. relating to the sea’s ecosystem and applicable to all aspects of fisheries management, from resources to consumers);
    – adopting more stringent technical measures to protect young fish, reduce the number of discards and promote the use of selective gear as well as fishing methods which are less damaging to the environment;
    – developing a system based on social, economic and environmental indicators, making it possible to measure the progress of the CFP, especially as regards sustainable development;
    – maintaining the 6/12 mile and Shetland Box regime. Most Member States (with the exception of Spain) agree with the Commission that the 6-12 mile regime applicable to the coastal area between these points should be renewed. This regime aims to restrict access to vessels practising small-scale coastal fishing (thus exerting less pressure on stocks located in the areas in question which often shelter nurseries) and protect the traditional fishing activities of coastal communities.


The situation at present

  • The inadequate priority given to environmental issues in the CFP

    There is currently an imbalance between environmental requirements and fishing
    interests. The problem is aggravated by insufficient knowledge about the sea’s ecosystems and the secondary effects of fishing. Moreover, the pollution produced by industry and other human activities, such as tourism, and climate change also contribute to the reduction in stocks or to the scarcity of fish in certain areas.


  • The integration of environmental concerns in the CFP

    The Commission is currently promoting environmental issues in the CFP. Thus the communication entitled “Elements of a strategy for the integration of environmental protection requirements into the common fisheries policy” establishes aims and specific ways of achieving them (COM(2001)143 final).
  • Launch of the debate on ecolabelling of fishery products

    According to the Commission, eco-labelling programmes which would supplement legislation on the exploitation of fishery resources and food safety could increase consumer awareness about environmental issues in fishing and educate all those involved.


The situation at present

  • The overcapacity of the fleet

    Following the progress made on a technical level and on the design of vessels, the current fleet is considerably over-sized.
    The multiannual guidance programmes (MAGPs) were drawn up to deal with this problem. MAGPs are the key element in the management of the Community fleet and are defined by a Council Decision. The criteria and conditions for Community structural assistance in the fisheries and aquaculture sector and for the processing and marketing of fishery products are established under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG).
    The current programme, MAGP IV (1997-2001) aims to reduce fishing capacity by 3% (defined in terms of tonnage and power) and fishing activity by 2%. It should be noted that these modest objectives were already being achieved in the case of capacity in 1997, the year MAGP IV was adopted.
  • Aid policy for the fisheries sector
    The reduction in the fleet’s capacity and in fishing activity has often been jeopardised by aid granted, whether subsidies for construction, modernisation or operating costs.


  • A more balanced fleet management

    Despite wide differences between the Member States (France and Italy would like to see MAGPs abolished while Spain, Portugal and Denmark want them to continue), all acknowledge the necessity to establish a fleet policy based on balance between the capacity of the fleet and exploitation rates compatible with long-term management aims.
    The new system will need to be more effective and transparent (stricter compliance with the rules in force). It must also take account of technical progress and be able to prevent public-sector aid contributing to an increase in the fishing effort (the United Kingdom and Denmark have requested that public-sector aid no longer be given for the construction and modernisation of vessels).


The situation at present

  • Decisionmaking at Community level
    The current legal framework does not conform to the need to react to local problems or crises (such as the immediate prohibition of fishing zones, to avoid irreparable damage to stocks).
  • The involvement of those in the fisheries sector
    Overall, the prevailing feeling is that those involved in the sector are not associated with certain important aspects of the CFP, such as the adoption of technical measures. In particular, many fishermen consider that their opinions and knowledge are not given sufficient consideration by the decision-makers and scientists. This lack of participation has a negative influence on support for the adopted measures.


  • The improvement of governance within the CFP framework

    The aim is to set up a simple, transparent and cost-effective mechanism which also ensures flexibility. It must also allow rapid emergency action and provide for further involvement of the people concerned.
    There are four possible ways of achieving this goal:
    – establishing regional advisory committees to increase the involvement of those concerned in the phase prior to making decisions about the CFP’s development;
    – decentralising certain management-related responsibilities to deal with urgent or local problems;
    – more systematic consideration of scientific advice in the decision-making process;
    – greater compatibility of the CFP with other policies affecting the coastal area. The communication entitled “Integrated Coastal Zone Management or ICZM: a strategy for Europe” deals with this problem (COM(2000)547 final/2).


The situation at present

  • The absence of a univocal Community strategy

    The organisation of monitoring and control is currently divided between the Community and the Member States.
    The current measures are considered by many to be inadequate and discriminatory. The legal system and sanctions are not harmonised, Community inspectors have only limited powers and the situation in the Member States is no better (lack of human resources and necessary skills).
    Moreover, even if the latest changes to the Regulation implementing a control system applicable to the common fisheries policy were a step in the right direction, the proposals intended to strengthen Community rules and increase the powers of Community inspectors did not receive a warm welcome from the Member States.


  • Strengthening the current mechanism

    There must continue to be progress in terms of the coordination of national policies, harmonisation of sanctions, following up offences and defining the respective responsibilities of the Member States and the Commission in the implementation of control programmes.
    The future possibility of creating a common inspection structure within the Community, to coordinate policies and the various measures, should not be dismissed.
  • Commission undertakings

    At the international conference on fisheries monitoring, control and surveillance, which took place in October 2000 in Brussels, the Commission publicly undertook to:
    – develop a code of conduct defining the rights and obligations of inspectors and fishermen;
    – conduct a preliminary “evaluation of controllability” for all new proposals concerning conservation measures;
    – establish a “controllability” diagnosis for all measures in force;
    – perform an analytical study of control expenditure in order to achieve a better evaluation of the real cost of controls and the resulting advantages;
    – use and take advantage of new technology for controls.


The situation at present

  • An important economic dimension with badlydefined objectives

    Fishing is a substantial sector into which 1.1 billion euros of public money is injected each year (national and Community financing together).
    Community intervention via the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) is significant in the fisheries sector, through the financing of investments in fishing vessels, on-shore processing facilities, etc.
    The common organisation of the market and the common trading policy also make it possible to support prices and give some tariff protection to Community producers.
    However, even though the Community has become heavily involved in the fisheries sector, the definition of an economic or “industrial” strategy remains the responsibility of the Member States, which pursue different and sometimes contradictory objectives in this respect. Consequently, it is difficult to formulate a single diagnosis regarding its economic and financial results and the conditions of its short- and long-term viability.
  • The constant regression of employment in the fisheries sector
    The number of fishermen is in constant decline, by an average of 2% a year, because resources are in short supply and technical progress has increased productivity enormously.
    Certain changes regarding Community dependency on fishing have also been observed (dependency can be defined here as the economy relying on catches/quantities landed). The map of regions dependent on fishing has changed significantly (for example, the degree of dependency has greatly decreased in most regions of Spain where it was previously very high).


  • Strengthening the economic and social aspects of the CFP
    Two types of measures must generally be implemented:
    – the first encourages durability and economic viability in the fisheries sector by reconsidering the role of public-sector aid;
    – the second aims to promote the adaptation of people currently employed in this sector to alternative occupations or employment.
    Independently of these two priorities, the Community must continue to deal with other social problems, such as improving the safety of fishing vessels and regulating working conditions.
  • The specific case of the outermost regions of the European Union
    The European Union includes seven regions classified as “outermost”: the autonomous Spanish community of the Canary Islands, the four French overseas departments (Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Martinique and Réunion) and the Portuguese autonomous regions of the Azores and Madeira.
    In its communication entitled “Commission Report on the measures to implement Article 299(2)”, the Commission is committed to submitting proposals and, if necessary, new measures to support these regions (COM(2000)147 final).


The situation at present

  • The development of aquaculture
    Aquaculture (the art of breeding and rearing aquatic animals and plants) has contributed to the supply of fish without increasing pressure on stocks in the marine environment. It has played an important role in improving the socio-economic situation of coastal residents by providing alternative employment.
    However, despite a generally satisfactory situation, Community aquaculture still faces a number of problems, such as the fact that it is increasingly seen as a threat to other activities. Tourism therefore accuses aquaculture of occupying space which could be used for recreation purposes, and of producing waste which is harmful to the quality of nearby swimming waters.


  • Priorities concerning support for aquaculture
    The aim is for European aquaculture to be able to take up the challenges resulting from environmental, health protection and international market requirements.
    In order to achieve this, public-sector assistance in support of aquaculture must cover expenditure on:
    – training, control;
    – research and development (in particular for new species);
    – treatment of waste water;
    – eradication of diseases, etc.
    Since 2000, the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) has widened its scope to include most aid of this type, as well as traditional investment aid.


The situation at present

  • The nature of the external fisheries policy
    The Community fleet, one of the largest in the world, operates mainly in Community waters. Nevertheless, the Community fishing sector relies heavily on access to non-Community resources.
    The resources that must be shared with third countries are located:
    – either in waters under the jurisdiction of more distant Coastal States (this initiated the bilateral agreements);
    – or in international waters (the United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) adopted the international conventions principle for using high sea resources; thus the EU has negotiated accession to several international conventions and regional fisheries organisations as an observer or member).
  • Weaknesses of the external fisheries policy
    As revealed by the bilateral agreements concluded by the Community:
    – some fishing agreements often render it impossible to react quickly to problems such as a reduction in stocks requiring emergency measures;
    – certain fishing agreements sometimes underestimated the number of guarantees needed to ensure the protection of small-scale coastal fishing;
    – the fishing opportunities offered to European vessels were not always based on the real development of the resource;
    – the fishing mortality inherent in the European fleet is often not well-known.
  • Community acceptance of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing
    In 1996, the Community accepted the agreement to promote compliance with international conservation and management measures by fishing vessels on the high seas (Council Decision 96/428/EC-OJ L 177, 16/7/1996).
    This agreement is an integral part of the International Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing introduced by the May 1992 Cancun declaration. By this means, the Community agreed to cooperate with developing countries and help them to become more efficient in the fisheries sector.


  • Multilateral cooperation
    The European Community has established priorities, as summarised below:
    – to promote those regional fishing agreements which take more account of the regional nature of the resource;
    – to encourage rational use of open-sea resources (definition of the rights and obligations of newcomers, etc);
    – to contribute to the application of the precautionary principle;
    – to step up the fight against illegal, undisclosed and uncontrolled fishing and particularly against certain Member States that should be more strict with their vessels;
    – to pay special attention to the work of the regional fisheries organisations;
    – to step up cooperation with developing countries at the level of regional and subregional fisheries organisations.
  • Bilateral cooperation
    Henceforth, fishing agreements must allow for the needs of developing countries and their legitimate desire to develop their own fisheries sector. Moreover, the Treaty states that the CFP must take account of Community objectives on development.
    Planned action includes:
    – acting on fishing problems by providing technical assistance, supporting the creation of professional organisations or working towards strengthening institutional and administrative capacities;
    – promoting responsible fishing by developing cooperation on research, evaluation of stocks, monitoring and surveillance, etc.;
    – contributing towards sustainable development in partner coastal States, by encouraging the implementation of appropriate financial instruments or by encouraging local training of human resources, etc.


The situation at present

  • Community policy in the Mediterranean
    Whilst the measures on structures and the market have been fully implemented in the specific area represented by the Mediterranean (where small-scale fishing and local fishing predominate), those targeting conservation and management have only been partially implemented.
    Various factors gave rise to this situation, such as:
    – the lack of data relevant to management-related decisions;
    – extremely defective surveillance and performance, especially for the minimum unloading sizes of fish;
    – the absence of international cooperation with the coastal States, marked by more frequent resorting to unilateral initiatives.


  • Revitalising the common fisheries policy in the Mediterranean
    Four types of action are possible:
    – improving scientific advice with the implementation of the new Community system for gathering data;
    – revising the regulation laying down certain technical measures for the conservation of fishery resources in the Mediterranean;
    – expanding the integrated development of coastal areas;
    – strengthening controls to apply the current rules effectively.
  • Strengthening international cooperation
    The Community proposes:
    – to improve the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) by establishing a periodic conference of the Fisheries Ministers of coastal States;
    – to develop subregional cooperation systems;
    – to encourage fishermen’s organisations from all Mediterranean States to create or strengthen the structures suitable for promoting cooperation;
    – to organise an ad hoc conference for the control of high-seas fishing and especially fishing practised by vessels from outside the Mediterranean States.

4) Deadline For Implementation Of The Legislation In The Member States

Not applicable

5) Date Of Entry Into Force (If Different From The Above)

Not applicable

6) References

COM (2001) 135 final
Not published in the Official Journal

7) Follow-Up Work

8) Commission Implementing Measures

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