Fisheries in European Union waters are managed under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The CFP was born in 1983 and has since been revised every 10 years. As co-founder of OCEAN2012, a collective of over 190 organisations, Seas At Risk worked to ensure an ambitious reform that was finalized in 2014. This reform brought several important improvements in the way EU fisheries are managed.
A key change is the commitment to end overfishing by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 at the latest, and to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. In addition, there is a possibility for member states to reward operators that fish sustainably and in an environmentally friendly way with extra quota, while keeping the total amount of quota within the limits advised by scientists. The wasteful practice of discarding perfectly edible fish overboard will gradually be banned, with the aim to encourage fishers to fish more selectively and avoid unwanted catches. Less fisheries management measures will be set at EU level, but rather shifted to the regional level of the different sea basins, to allow for adaptation to the regional needs and ensure faster decision processes. Finally, more EU subsidies are made available for data collection and control, which are essential to support sustainable fisheries management.
With these changes the CFP has improved, but without proper implementation it will render little effect in the water. Seas At Risk is working to ensure a thorough implementation.
Influencing decisions relating to the implementation is usually very difficult. The Council of Ministers and the European Parliament share the decision-making power for most fisheries management issues, and jointly decide on legislation in the framework of the CFP, based on proposals from the European Commission. National short-term priorities, rather than the goal of sustainable management, govern many decisions. The issues are complex and often technical, and easily become politicised.
Seas At Risk, together with the Swedish NGO Fisheries Secretariat, works towards environmentally sustainable decisions in the Council of Ministers and in the European Parliament through the production of Fisheries Council and Parliament briefings. These comprise of analyses and comments from an environmental perspective on key proposals on each Fisheries Council agenda, which are sent to Ministers, relevant Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and their advisory staff, as well as many other stakeholders.
You can find the back catalogue of these briefings here.