Why a new proposal?
Three decades of stratified measures have led to a highly complex regulatory structure. For instance:
- the high degree of prescription and complexity makes control and enforcement difficult, creates massive red tape and is ultimately counterproductive, as it leads to a negation of the rules;
- there needs to be a lengthy, politically-driven adoption process for every detail, no matter how small, technical or for which region; consequently decision-making institutions are reluctant to undertake change and the flexibility element is lost;
- there is no engagement on the part of the industry, which sees the current technical measures as impractical, inadequate for current fishing practices, contradictory and coercive (as opposed to promoting positive change);
- the current technical measures provide little incentive to fish selectively;
- gauging the effectiveness of the measures is difficult in the absence of defined metrics.
How does the new governance work?
The proposal has two parts:
- Common rules – objectives, targets, common standards and rules such as gear banned in the whole EU, general gear use conditions, measures to protect sensitive species, measures to reduce discarding and minimum conservation reference sizes. Existing conservation standards are maintained and in some cases made stricter (see also following question below).
- Baseline technical measures for each region/sea basin – these are open to adaptation by each region. Under a defined regionalisation process, the Member States around a sea basin, in consultation with the stakeholders, can propose alternative or additional measures (aka joint recommendations). This can apply for instance to discard plans, multiannual plans, or any fisheries conservation measures necessary to comply with the Habitat and Marine Strategy Framework Directives.
When the Commission receives joint recommendations from a group of Member States to change the baseline technical measures, it scrutinises them against the objectives and targets of the Regulation. Only if the recommendations contribute to those targets does the Commission accept and adopt them in order for them to become law. This will ensure that conservation standards are constantly maintained or even improved.
Are you maintaining the conservation standards?
Technical measures are an essential tool that, together with others (such as fishing opportunities, multiannual plans, discard plans, and fleet management) contributes to sustainable fisheries. The new proposal will play a key role in bringing about more selectivity to protect juvenile (small) fish and avoiding unwanted catches. This is crucial in order to achieve the Maximum Sustainable Yield objective, to take the highest amount of fish from the sea while keeping fish stocks healthy, and to phase out the discarding of fish.
The proposal largely retains the existing conservation standards, however it extends conservation to ecosystems (area closures and other technical limitations to avoid unwanted effects on the ecosystems or the sea bed), marine habitats (in particular in connection with environmental legislation such as the Habitat and the Marine Strategy Framework Directives), and non-commercial and sensitive by-catch species. For instance specific measures for the protection of seabirds are newly introduced.
The governance system ensures that only recommendations which contribute to the defined targets can become law.
Why is this proposal an example of better regulation?
We currently have to work with a highly complex and sometimes incoherent set of over 30 very detailed instruments. Fishermen have difficulty keeping up with the measures, and it is also increasingly problematic for national control administrations to enforce them all.
As part of the REFIT programme, the new proposal replaces fully or partially nine co-decided Regulations, amends and simplifies five others, and repeals over 10 Commission Regulations. The simplification, combined with the introduction of the regionalisation element, is expected to increase flexibility and raise buy-in - and thus compliance – on the part of operators.