EU Commission proposes plan to save Europe's fisheries and promote aquaculture

Proposals to reform the management of the EU’s fisheries calls for the support of sustainable, competitive and diverse aquaculture, supported by the most advanced research and technology, overcoming problems of access and administrative barriers

July 14, 2011

Proposals to reform the management of the EU’s fisheries would restore fish stocks to sustainable levels – providing a stable, secure and healthy food supply. They aim to return the fishing industry to profit, end its dependence on public subsidies and create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas.

Change is urgent. Current EU measures have reduced the danger for some fish stocks, but commercial trawlers are still catching fish faster than they can reproduce. The result? Three out of four fish species are now overfished, threatening the entire marine ecosystem. The industry is suffering decreasing returns and an uncertain future.

Estimates show that the new measures would lead to a 70% increase in fish stocks. Overall catches would increase by around 17% and result in a more profitable industry.

The proposals include:

- basing fisheries management on long-term goals and the best scientific advice available

- setting catch quotas to bring all fish stocks to sustainable levels by 2015, in line with the EU’s international commitments

- requiring fishermen to land all the fish that they catch – they will not be allowed to discard unwanted fish species caught

- reducing fleet overcapacity through market measures rather than subsidies – for example, individual catch quotas would be tradable among fishermen

- providing support to help small-scale fisheries adapt to the changes

- giving more power to EU countries on conservation measures so these can be tailored to regional and local needs – fishermen would also make their own decisions on fleet sizes and supply

- providing consumers with better information on the quality, origin and sustainability of the seafood they buy

EU financial support will be granted only to environmentally friendly fisheries projects. Strict controls will end funding for rule-breakers or projects that lead to overcapacity.

The Commission also plans to promote fisheries conservation internationally through new EU agreements with other countries.

The  report includes supporting sustainable fish farms to meet the demand for fish: "Promoting the sustainable development of aquaculture is essential to meet the growing global demand for fish and seafood. In the EU aquaculture is a varied activity, ranging from extensive and traditional coastal and pond farming to a high-tech industrialised activity, in particular marine fish farming. Aquaculture is also an important economic activity underpinning sustainable economic growth in rural and coastal communities and the aquaculture activity can contribute to the preservation and protection of environmental features, such as for instance extensive aquaculture in wetlands.

"The sustainability of aquaculture as well as the quality and safety of its products are crucial factors on which to build the industry's potential and to improve its competitive edge. The EU must promote sustainable, competitive and diverse aquaculture, supported by the most advanced research and technology, overcoming problems of access and administrative

"There is a clear EU dimension, since strategic choices at national level may impact the development in neighbouring Member States. The reform will require Member States to prepare national strategic plans based on a set of strategic EU guidelines to create favourable conditions to encourage the economic activity and improve its competitiveness, to support its sustainable development and innovation, and to stimulate diversification. Open methods of coordination may take the exchange of information and best practices among Member States a step further (e.g. access to space and waters, licensing)."

The proposals now go before the European Parliament and EU governments for consideration.