European seas are on the brink of collapse. Implementing the new Common Fisheries Policy can change this and 2015 can be the turning point.
Several legislations are expected to be negotiated in 2015 that, if done correctly, will have drastic positive impacts on how the EU manages its fisheries, including the wider impact to the marine environment.
- To attain long term survival of a fish stock, there is a limit to how much fishermen can catch. Every year, Member States sit together to decide what should be the catch limit for every commercial fish stock. Setting catch limits allows for fishermen access to a fish stock indefinitely. Nevertheless, last year, Member States set catch limits too high and ignored scientific advice, and some commercial fish stocks continue to be in dire situation. At the end of this year, it is imperative for member states to stick to scientific advice when setting catch limits in order to restore and maintain fish stocks as set out in the new CFP.
- Key to management of fisheries is the regional seas multiannual plans. These are plans that are intended to manage the fisheries and the fish they exploit. The European Commission has already proposed a plan for the Baltic but unfortunately failed to provide any structured guidance to how fishing rules (such as which fishing gears to use) should be applied. It also omitted a key objective of the new CFP to integrate an ecosystem based approach to fisheries management. As discussions have now entered the halls of the European Parliament and national ministries, we hope that decision makers can improve this plan in the coming months of negotiations. Furthermore, we also expect the European Commission to not make the same mistake twice and, in the third quarter of 2015, propose a much more elaborate plan for the North Sea and Atlantic that supports the objectives of the CFP.
- Fishing rules (i.e. technical measures) have been a very heavily debated topic in the past. The European Commission intends to restart this debate early this year, focusing on the North Sea and Atlantic. Getting these fishing rules correct and in line with the new CFP is fundamental to ensure that both fisherman and the marine environment gain.
- Good management of EU fisheries requires systematic collection of data that needs to be supplied by EU countries under the Data Collection Regulation. Member States have already made great efforts in inspecting, analysing and assessing data. However, information on the impact of fisheries on the marine environment (such as incidental catches of seabirds) is missing. In early 2015, we expect the European Commission to propose a new regulation on data collection that guarantees data on wider marine environment will also be collected by Member States.
It is yet to be seen if decision makers will step up to implement what the EU set out to do with the new CFP.
Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe