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Fishing reform and the new CFP – is the glass half full or half empty?


After four long years of campaigning by the public, businesses, fishermen and NGOs and the hard work of civil servants and politicians, the Basic Regulations of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) are now done and dusted. These are the main set of rules that will govern Europe’s fishing fleets in European waters and beyond for the next 10 years.

A fisherman gutting fishFisherman © Jiri Rezac / WWF-UK

Back in February, we celebrated when the European Parliament historically voted through a radical CFP reform package. But we always knew that this would not be the final decision.

From March till 2 week ago, representatives of the EU Parliament attempted to negotiate their more progressive plan for the CFP with the EU Council of Fish Ministers – who have a heavy fishing industry bias from certain Member States. Sadly, the final reform was less radical than the EU Parliament’s package. As with all mammoth political negotiations, the question of whether the glass is half full or half empty must be answered.

So what’s in the final text?

  • There is a strong commitment to following science, to end overfishing, and a clear move away from the lunacy of setting unsustainable fishing quotas, but we missed out on enshrining a deadline for full fish stock recoveries
  • The famously publicised practice of discarding fish is to all but end over the next four years but as ever there are a few gremlin loopholes to keep a close eye on
  • There is a clear commitment to tailor fisheries management to a specific fishery, and for multi year periods, meaning a shift away from a top down short term approach from Brussels. This is good but now the onus is on EU countries to take advantage of this and collaborate and deliver – and that in some cases is a bit of an unknown quantity
  • There are clear commitments to manage fishing fleet overcapacity more transparently as well as ensuring that broader environmental commitments are taken on-board to minimise the impact fishing has on the environment.
  • And finally the CFP rules will now apply to all EU fishing vessels wherever they fish (even outside EU waters), mainstreaming more sustainable fishing around the world, but vigilance will be needed in far off seas to ensure that this is indeed the case
Fishing in the early morning.Fishing in the early morning. © Jiri Rezac / WWF-UK

We here in the UK office are optimists – and think this is at least a glass of tepid water half full! That said, hawkish eyes will be needed during the implementation phase. There is also still the small issue of how this is all going to be funded that needs to be sorted out in the next six months.

But that’s another story…

The bottom line is that we believe that this CFP reform package will change the way fisheries are managed for the better – but it will likely mean different things in different Member States. We will continue to monitor and work with key stakeholders on making this reform work for our seas and fisheries and those communities who rely on them. We will also of course continue campaigning to protect our oceans, our rivers, forests and the environment.

Regards and thanks to the thousands of you who helped along the way.

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