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Scientific and technical advice
Commission communication of 23 December 2002 on improving scientific and technical advice for Community fisheries management [Official Journal C 47 of 27.02.2003]
In order to implement the common fisheries policy, the European Union (EU) needs high-quality, reliable scientific advice. This advice enables it, in particular, to implement the policy for the conservation and management of resources and surveillance and negotiate international agreements.
The shortcomings in the current arrangements will be remedied by reorganising the procedures for the provision of advice and increasing the human resources available to prepare the advice. The European Union must therefore:
- coordinate the activities of the Member States to strengthen their participation in the various regional fisheries organisations,
- have its own scientific staff.
Organising the provision of advice. To organise the provision of advice, the Commission recommends taking account of the knowledge of the fishing industry in the regional advisory councils. The Commission relies on communication between the fishing industry and scientific circles, external review of assessments and intensifying collaboration between the different stakeholders when the multiannual management plans are drawn up and quotas adopted.
The Commission wishes to improve collaboration between its own departments, the national authorities and the research institutes to publish better scientific papers and advice. Such coordination would take place upstream of any action undertaken in the context of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). The Commission will also examine the possibility of the EU obtaining full membership of ICES.
At the same time, the quality of advice will be improved by fixing scientific priorities. Greater attention will be paid to collecting data in high-risk sectors, using simplified procedures in other domains. The Commission also intends to adopt methods for solving management problems as soon as they appear. It points out that in areas where sustainable fishing is practised, there will be less need for scientific advice.
In order to enhance the value of scientific advice and avoid situations where advice directly addresses the concerns of the manager, a better division of labour is needed between scientists and managers.
In order to be able to call on advice at short notice, the Commission recommends adopting a "fast-track" method involving the creation of ad-hoc groups.
Increasing resources. Despite better organisation of priorities and methods for preparing scientific advice, there is still a need for the European Union to have human resources available to it.
For advice to be of high quality, the statistical data gathered must be reliable.
Despite the implementation of Community rules, many problems will remain. Solutions must therefore be found to make advice more credible and improve quality control.
To improve scientific knowledge and resolve problems relating to fisheries management, scientific personnel must be available. The scientists responsible for preparing advice must be of top quality and independent. The Commission also proposes either to pay the national laboratories for their contributions to the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) or to recruit independent experts.
EUR 2.3 million were made available for that purpose in 2003.
In the long term, the Commission is proposing to strengthen the role of ICES by making it an advisory committee to the European Union. The Commission is also examining the possibility of setting up a new scientific body in the form of a European agency, an office of the Commission or a unit within the Joint Research Centre.
Scientific advice in the European Union. The scientific advice on which EU decisions are based must be objective, impartial and identify a course of action. Advice is needed to manage catches, international negotiations, aquaculture and the economic and social aspects of the CFP. At present, there are various procedures for the provision of advice, which can come from international and national bodies, ICES, the STECF and regional and ad-hoc organisations. The advice is most often prepared by the staff of the national laboratories. These staff are over-worked, while the Commission itself has insufficient scientific expertise in-house.
Gathering the data needed to prepare advice is the responsibility of the Member States, with the European Union playing a coordinating role. Nevertheless, there are still shortcomings, particularly in the reliability of catch data, which are not always accurate. Moreover, scientific procedures are not always transparent, answers do not come quickly enough and some advice is too inflexible.
Regarding the use of infrastructure, exclusive recourse to national laboratories overburdens them with work and this gives rise to disputes about priorities. Hence the need to review the procedure for the provision of advice and increase resources.