The six European Parliament rapporteurs in charge of the CFP reform package have exchanged views with Commissioner Damanaki, Seas At Risk and other stakeholders on the future of European fisheries. Recovery targets, access to fish resources and a ban on discards were among the most debated issues at the event.

The six European Parliament rapporteurs in charge of the CFP reform package have exchanged views with Commissioner Damanaki, Seas At Risk and other stakeholders on the future of European fisheries. Recovery targets, access to fish resources and a ban on discards were among the most debated issues at the event.

At the event, hosted by the Alliance of European Liberals and Democrats, Seas At Risk Executive Director Monica Verbeek urged the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to set an ambitious stock recovery target for all European stocks, aiming at a biomass that can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2015. For those stocks where this proves impossible, she suggested that provisions should be made to ensure that targeted measures are adopted, with a clear timeframe for delivery. She also pleaded for rules on access to fisheries resources based on socio-economic criteria, for selectivity measures accompanying a ban on discarding unwanted catches at sea, and for the use of public funds in a manner that supports sustainable fishing.

Commissioner Damanaki urged MEPs to support the Commission’s proposals on reaching MSY by 2015 and on imposing a discards ban for all commercial fish stocks. She also explained that the Commission has tried to set a framework for regionalisation in the proposals, but that she will be happy to adjust this if other proposals are made which are legally feasible.

DIFFERING OPINIONS

While most MEPs recognised the need for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the presentations and statements made by the different MEPs at the event revealed a range of differing views on several aspects of the Commission’s proposals.

MEP Ulrike Rodust (S&D, Germany) presented the main proposals made in her working document on the CFP Basic Regulation, the major legislative proposal in the CFP reform. She argued that MEPs must be realistic when it comes to an MSY target, and that therefore all that can be done by 2015 is to set a fishing mortality target rather than a biomass target. She supported the gradual introduction of a general discards ban and a more regional approach to fisheries management, possibly under the oversight of the Commission. She also said there were many convincing advantages of introducing Individual Quota systems (IQs), but that transferability posed several problems. She therefore argued that Transferable Fishing Concessions (TFCs) should only be mandatory if Member States fail to demonstrate that they can reduce capacity otherwise.

MEP Isabella Lövin (Greens, Sweden), in charge of the report on the external dimension of the CFP, mentioned the need to strengthen Regional Fisheries Management Organisations. She highlighted all the current problems with EU fishing agreements with third countries, but concluded that they should be continued, because such agreements are publicly accessible and can be scrutinized, while private negotiations remain undisclosed. However, future fisheries agreements should only target a surplus of fish that is not used by the third country, and operators should pay for the costs of access.

MEP Struan Stevenson (ECR, United Kingdom) focused on the market issues to be addressed in his report. He emphasised the important role that Producers Organisations (POs) should play in the implementation of the different aspects of the CFP reform, from managing TFCs to making use of bycatch. He thought that European funds should be channelled to support POs in these tasks. A main point of interest for him was the issue of labelling, and in particular eco-labelling – his report will suggest the creation of an EU eco-label for fish products, although this proposal has proven far from consensual among his peers.

In addition, MEP Carl Haglund (ALDE, Finland), said he would highlight concepts such as ecosystem-based approach and harvest control rules in his report on reporting obligations, and he criticised the Commission for being too lenient on Member States who fail to comply with their data collection and reporting obligations.

Finally, MEP Alain Cadec (EPP, France) indicated he wanted more focus on subsidies for fleet modernisation (a capacity enhancing measure) in the proposal for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund on which he will report.

The different components of the CFP reform package have different timetables for their expected finalisation. A Parliament position on the external dimension can be expected in the summer, whereas the Plenary vote on the CFP Basic Regulation is only expected in the early autumn. The first vote on the EMFF will probably take place in January 2013.

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