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Member of the European Commission responsible for Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries

Introductory Statement on the Green Paper on the future of the common fisheries policy

North Atlantic Fisheries Ministerial Conference

Stenungsund (Sweden), 28 May 2001

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We have come together here in Gothenburg for the 6th edition of the North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference to focus our discussions on new management approaches. My contribution to this conference will be the presentation of the "Greenpaper on the future of the Common Fisheries Policy". I would like to draw out a picture for you on how we see the CFP of the future. We want a thorough reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. But instead of coming forward right now with mind set ideas in the form of new proposals, we chose the way of a dialogue. It is a dialogue with all stakeholders in the fishing industry, but also with NGO's, consumers and other interested people. And the basis for this dialogue is our Greenpaper, a paper where we describe what the problems are that we are faced with today, where we describe what will happen if we don't stop this high speed train of declining fish stocks, what will happen if we don't curb fleet over-capacity and where we present some of the options that can help us solve the problems.

You might ask yourself, why I present this paper to you? Well the answer is evident: because as I have indicated already yesterday we share a lot of the problems. Fish knows no boundaries and it certainly does not stick to the 200 mile zone. But apart from declining fish stocks, we also share ever increasing fleets, especially when it comes to fishing power. Something else we have in common is being members of the same Regional Fisheries Organisations, where we have to agree on conservation measures. And finally we share the same clients: the fishermen, who are the hunters of modern times. They have worked with the law of nature often for decades and today have to work more and more with the law of man, like fishing restrictions and technical measures. And finally another thing we have in common is that we hear the same complaints from our fishermen when it comes to enforcement, namely that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Let me now present the content of our Greenpaper.

In the Greenpaper we describe that our common fisheries policy is facing four main problems:

Firstly, the CFP instruments currently available do not give us the means to ensure sustainable exploitation of many of the Community's fish stocks. For example, in the early 1970's average stock levels of demersal species were nearly twice as high than at the end of the 1990's. The cod crisis in the North Sea has created enormous problems for us. Mortality rates in western waters have increased dramatically and reached or exceeded levels previously only seen in the North Sea. Also in the Mediterranean many of the main stocks are overfished.

Secondly, the industry itself has not been sufficiently involved in planning and implementing the measures taken, which in turn has had a negative impact on compliance with the rules. On top of that the fishermen don't trust the anyway inadequate control measures and doubt their uniform application.

Thirdly, public aid to the industry has led to overcapitalisation and has encouraged overcapacity.

We have attempted to tackle this with our multiannual guidance programmes for fishing effort, but the to low reduction rates have been cancelled out by technical progress and the increased efficiency of modern ships.

Despite the major financial resources deployed, our support policy has not succeeded in checking the continuing fall in employment in the industry. Thus, between 1990 and 1997, employment in the catch sector fell by 19% and in the processing sector by 10%.

Finally, I see the fourth problem in our dependence on fishery resources on the high seas and in third-country waters. The future of our bilateral fishery relations has become less predictable. More and more developing countries are exercising their legitimate right to develop their own fishing industry themselves. In addition, fish stocks are also on the decline in third-country waters.

So one thing is clear to me: all these problems taken together call for a thorough and urgent reform of the common fisheries policy and Community fishery management.

A modern, future-oriented and sustainable common fisheries policy must be geared to four key objectives:

    We must restore biologically healthy stocks in a healthy marine ecosystem.

    We want closer involvement of stakeholders in decision-making processes.

    We need an economically sustainable fishery and aquaculture industry.

    We must also ensure sustainable fishing beyond EU waters.

Allow me to outline how the Commission intends to achieve these objectives.

    Our stock conservation policy must move away from short-term solutions..

    To do that, we propose multiannual, multi-species and ecosystem-oriented management. This will provide predictability for fishermen in drawing up plans while ensuring greater sustainability in resource exploitation.

    • we need more effective technical measures:

      - Selective gear which reduces or completely eliminates by-catches, for example;

 - Fishing methods with less impact on the environment;

 - By-catch quotas as practised by NAFO, to name but a few examples.

  • we demand a level playing field for control and enforcement throughout the Community. We have now an ideal opportunity to put a better regulatory framework in place and to ensure equivalent levels of control. We must examine whether this is not best done by means of a joint fisheries inspection structure.

  • Also in the Mediterranean, we will have to step up stock conservation and management measures and adapt them to the region's particular needs. This will involve closer cooperation with third countries and tighter controls to increase the measures' effectiveness.

  • We propose to keep the principle of relative stability. The current exceptions to access to the 6 to 12-mile zone and Shetland Box should also remain in place . However, in the long term an option for consideration could be whether market forces and alternative management instruments should not be given greater prominence in shaping the Community's fishing industry.

  • Future fleet policy must be transparent, manageable and easier to enforce.

  • We need good governance, a network of regional advisory committees for fisheries involving all stakeholders in the particular region shall be the basis for this. Openness, transparency, non-discrimination and compatibility with the Community's institutional framework should be the principles guiding these committees' work.  We should delegate the powers to deal with problems in the Member States' own waters to national level without discriminating however the fishermen and infringe the right of initiative of the Commission..

  • Scientific advice must be better integrated into the decision-making process, and clear research priorities are called for.

  • Community financial assistance must be concentrated on reducing overcapacity. The mid-term review of the Structural Funds planned for 2003 will provide a good opportunity to address this problem. The Member States should make it easier for fishermen to gain access to alternative employment, and make greater use of the Community funds provided. 

  • As a major player in the fishing world, we also want to be at the forefront of international efforts to achieve sustainable exploitation of marine resources. This will involve closer international cooperation, a higher profile for regional fishery organisations and clamping down on illegal fishing.  At the same time we will have to mesh our external fishery policy more closely with development and environmental policies.  As regards fishery agreements with the Northern and Baltic countries, we must create a stable normative framework with clear access conditions, where possible on a multiannual basis, consolidating the Community fleet's presence in those waters.  Where these agreements are funded out of the Community budget, it is reasonable to ask whether shipowners should not also make a financial contribution, as is the case with the agreements with Southern countries.  As far as the "Southern agreements" themselves are concerned, the Community's preferred option would be partnership agreements. This will not only ensure access for our fleets to stocks, but will also promote political dialogue and responsible fishing.

But for now lets focus on our discussion here. I would be interested to hear about the way you manage fishing in your countries.

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