The European Commission (EC) has welcomed the decision by the Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting of June 19, 2006, to adopt the Regulation on the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) that it proposed in July 2004.
The EC said in apress statement that the EFF, which will replace the current Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), from 1 January 2007, has been tailor-made to secure a sustainable European fishing and aquaculture industry.
"Most of the Commission’s core proposals have been retained by Council. The result is a fund that will both support the industry as it adapts its fleet to make it more competitive and promote measures to protect and enhance the environment. The EFF will also help fisheries communities most affected by the resulting changes to diversify their economic base."
Support will be reinforced for measures that will ensure that the industry will continue to have access to the skilled labor force it requires. The EFF will run for seven years, with a total budget of around €3.8 billion. Funding will be available for all sectors of the industry – sea and inland fisheries, aquaculture businesses, producer organisations, and the processing and marketing sectors - as well as for fisheries areas.
”The agreement reached today strikes the right balance between helping the sector regain and retain its competitiveness and support for sustainable and more environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture. The EFF will also help fishing areas strengthen their economic base.” said Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Joe Borg.
The measures which have just been adopted will help meet the CFP core objectives as agreed under the 2002 CFP reform, including those on ending public aid that has in the past contributed to increasing fishing capacity.
The new Fund will have five main priorities:
- helping the fleet adapt fishing capacity and effort to available fish resources;
- support to the various industry branches;
- aid for organisations which represent the collective interest of the sector;
- sustainable development of fisheries-dependent areas; and
- technical assistance to Member States to facilitate the delivery of aid.
It will be up to Member States to decide how they allocate funds between these different priorities.
While many measures presently found in the FIFG will continue under the EFF, the new Fund also introduces a range of innovative mechanisms in response to the changing needs of the industry. These include measures to accompany the implementation of recovery plans and to encourage more selective fishing methods alongside funding for local strategies for sustainable development in fisheries areas. The new fund provides enhanced aid for inland fisheries and environmentally-friendly aquaculture. In addition, the Member States will benefit from simpler implementation rules and greater flexibility in the application of eligibility criteria, so that they can adjust them more easily to the needs of their national industries.
In future, Member States will be required to draw up a national strategic plan for the entire fisheries sector, and all assistance will be channelled through a single national EFF programme, rather than the many different programmes which often existed in the past.
The regulation contains a number of measures and amendments introduced during the process of adoption by Council, including:
- aid for engine replacement on grounds of safety and fuel efficiency, on condition that the engine power of the vessels concerned is either equal or smaller depending on the size and type of vessels;
- extended aid and compensation for both permanent and temporary cessation of fishing activities, which can now include such cases as reassignment of vessels to non-fishing activities and the creation of artificial reefs, closure of fisheries for public health reasons, or due to high concentration of juveniles or spawning fish; and
- aid in the aquaculture, processing and marketing sectors to include medium-sized and some large enterprises, though small and micro enterprises still have to be given priority.