AGAINST the Common Fisheries Policy

FOR the Common Fisheries Policy


The Common Fisheries Policy is chronically over-centralized. Bureaucrats in Brussels are micromanaging diverse fisheries from the Arctic and the Mediterranean without understanding local issues or listening to the voices of fishermen who best know what’s going on in their waters. A local, regional or national policy would introduce more flexibility enabling fishermen and authorities to better respond to changing situations. Although the CFP is centrally managed, it is implemented nationally, allowing authorities to favour their own fleets. Greenpeace last year revealed Spanish authorities turning a blind eye to abuses by the EU’s biggest fishing fleet.


Because fish don’t follow frontiers, the European Union needs a common policy to manage fisheries. That protects stocks and prevents damaging competition between fishing fleets. Having the Spanish, French, British, Irish and Portuguese fleets all competing independently under national rules for declining stocks in the same Atlantic waters would lead to chaos.


CFP was supposed to protect fish stocks without killing fishing communities. It’s failed on both counts. Despite 42 years of the CFP, three out of four of the major commercial stocks are overfished, while the EU fleet is still at least double the sustainable level. Without change, 90 percent of stocks will reach unsustainable levels within 10 years. Quota hopping within the EU enables big commercial fisheries from countries like Spain and Denmark to grab the others stocks. The quota system favours big industrial trawlers while penalizing small, sustainable inshore fishing communities who are denied quotas.


Left to their own devices, fishermen will catch too many fish. Europe would end up like Canada in the 1990s when the cod stocks were all but wiped out by overfishing. A common European policy is the best way to manage European fish reserves and protect the marine environment, by imposing quotas and preventing catches of immature fish. Scientists estimate 29 of the 33 most important commercial fish species are overfished, so there is a pressing need to maintain and expand the protection offered by the CFP.


CFP rules force fishermen to dump billions of dead fish because they are too small or the wrong species. An FAO study estimates discards in the North Atlantic at 1.3 tonnes a years, 13 percent of the catch, with even higher rates off the coasts of Scotland and Ireland. This is an absurd waste and it has to be changed.


The Common Fisheries Policy provides long-term support for fishing communities by ensuring stocks are managed in a sustainable manner. Through the CFP, fishermen receive state-of-the-art scientific advice and support. The €4.3 billion European Fisheries Fund backs reform and modernization. The EU helps ensure fair prices for fishermen with a support system to ensure minimum prices. That all helps protect 335,000 jobs in the fisheries sector. When necessary, support is given for uneconomic vessels to be de-commissioned and fishermen to be re-trained for other careers. The CFP provides crucial support for aquaculture which already represents 18 percent of EU fish production and employs 65,000 people. CFP common standards ensures consumers are protected and food quality is high.


European fisheries policies are disastrous for neighbouring countries. Under the CFP, the EU bullies and bribes poor countries into opening their waters to predatory European factory ships. The EU fleet now takes around 40 percent of its catch by weight from the waters of so-called “partner countries.” That threatens the livelihoods of 1.5 million small fishermen in West Africa. They are turning to smuggling emigrants instead, while their Somali counterparts are forced into piracy.


By acting a whole, the EU can negotiate advantageous agreements with third countries enabling, properly regulated European vessels to fish in their waters. EU boats catch only fish that are surplus to local fishermen’s needs meaning the agreements are beneficial for both sides. Bilateral agreements alone provide direct employment for some 40,000 EU workers, and fishing opportunities for around 3,000 boats.