Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs
Making the C ommon Fisheries Policy reform work for the outermost regions
O pening of the Conference on the Green Paper on the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy
Arrecife, Canary Islands (Spain), 27 November 2009
President Rivero, Minister Merino, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to be able to attend this important and highly topical conference to discuss the Green Paper on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
Since the Green Paper's launch in April, the discussion on the CFP reform process has really begun to take shape. Many meetings have been held and we have received a range of contributions from members of the public, organisations from various walks of life, Member States and regions. The response to the reform consultation has been more than encouraging and is a testament to the importance which Europe's citizens attach to our continent's proud maritime traditions.
Next year we will begin analysing the contributions to our reform debate in detail. However, it is already clear that the consultation has elicited exactly the kind of wide-ranging debate we had hoped for.
It is also apparent from the reform consultation thus far that, of the many issues touched upon, three in particular have received much attention. I am referring to overcapacity, small-scale fisheries and regionalisation.
Overcapacity is one of the five problems outlined in the Green Paper. In this regard, rights-based management could prove a significant means of helping to reduce fleets, bring more responsibility into the industry, reduce overfishing, and enhance competition – all of these being elements which are also of importance to small-scale fleets.
This brings me to the second issue of small-scale fisheries themselves, which play such an important role in the social fabric and cultural identity of these magnificent islands.
They are just one example of an area in which we need to consider the specifics of the outermost regions. It is exactly this where your ideas and input as stakeholders in an outermost region will be most welcome.
Our suggestion for a differentiated regime may be of particular relevance to the Canary Islands. We understand just how important it is to the Canary Islands that the interests of the small-scale sector are preserved.
That is why, in looking at the future of our small-scale fleet, the Green Paper refers to the need for safeguards for small-scale fisheries. Such safeguards may be required, for instance, to avoid excessive concentration of ownership or other negative effects that may arise where more market-oriented management leads to fleet adaptations in line with market demands.
What kind of safeguards could we, therefore, envisage to avert risks of this kind?
There are a number of potential options. For instance, it may prove appropriate to establish a separate block of rights, tradable within, for example, the outermost regions, but not beyond. Alternatively, we could look at distinct fleet segments between which no rights could be traded. We could also consider limiting concentration by introducing a maximum number of years in which a company may retain ownership of a right. In addition, there might be scope for a scheme allowing for temporary blockage of any transfer. We might even consider excluding certain fleets from being able to avail themselves of tradable rights.
In short, rights-based management can be a serious option if we take small-scale fleet specifics sufficiently into consideration. We should consider how we can ensure a smart introduction of rights-based management – gradually where needed. And we will have to adapt arrangements to the local or regional situation, for example where quotas are managed collectively through producer organisations or other fishermen's bodies.
Besides identifying safeguard measures for small-scale fleets in relation to rights-based management, we should also look at other specific measures, such as those already included in the control and EFF regulations, and see how to deal with them in a reformed CFP. Furthermore, we should focus, within small-scale fisheries regimes, on the benefits of specific conservation elements, such as zonal management, preferential access for vessels/gears with lower energy-consumption, ones which cause less environmental damage, and so on. We have many experiences out there that may help strengthen the position of the small-scale fisheries fleets, and we need to take them into account.
There are many other issues on which we must take our discussions further. These include, for example, establishing which criteria should be worked out at EU level and which decisions should be taken at Member State or regional level. Also, in this regard, we should consider what the definition of small-scale fisheries should be, and who should come up with that definition.
Tied in with this is the issue of the place of outermost regions in the regionalisation discussion and in the ultimate decision-making set-up that emerges from the reform debate. Here again, as with every aspect of the Common Fisheries Policy, the Commission does not have a hidden agenda or pre-conceived plan. All options remain open. The outermost regions will have ample opportunity to influence the regionalisation discussion and have their specific positions taken into account when the final set-up takes shape.
The ideas in the Green Paper with regard to rights-based management, preserving small-scale sector interests and the regionalisation of decision-making may well constitute a good starting point for finding a flexible and efficient fleet-management system able to cope with the many problems encountered. This applies, for instance, to the difficulties faced in the Canary Islands with regard to access for young people to small-scale fishing.
In any event, it goes without saying that the new CFP should comply with the requirements of the Treaty concerning outermost regions and their specific problems.
The Commission is sensitive to the issues of particular relevance to the European Union's outermost regions. There is no doubt that these regions' unique location and conditions warrant their enjoying special consideration. However, since it focuses on a general policy analysis, the Green Paper does not refer explicitly to this. Having said this, I can reassure you that the benefits which emerge from a reformed CFP will be spread proportionately to the situation of each region's fisheries sector within its overall economic sector.
Let us not forget that the importance of sectors such as transport, research and tourism in the Canary Islands makes your region ideally placed to pursue another important future goal – namely that of furthering the integration of fisheries policy into the Integrated Maritime Policy context, also a key issue addressed in the Green Paper and on which we will have to come up with workable and tangible solutions.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Unfortunately, I cannot cover every aspect of fisheries policy in this speech. However, I am sure that the round table discussion ahead will enable us to pursue many other lines of discussion together.
Before I conclude, though, I would mention two other issues of importance to the Canary Islands – aquaculture and trade and markets.
The Commission's Communication on aquaculture, adopted in April 2009, seeks to give new political impetus to the sustainable development of EU aquaculture. We want to make EU aquaculture more competitive, while ensuring sustainable growth and improving the sector's image and governance. To that end, the Communication promotes sustainable practices, technological developments, spatial planning processes and the publicising and the promotion of aquaculture products.
In this context, the strategy for the sustainable development of aquaculture and the adoption of a spatial planning tool in the Canary Islands are welcome developments. Furthermore, the optimal conditions for aquaculture production on these islands, coupled with the very favourable EFF conditions available to support aquaculture, fish processing and trade, bode well for the future of aquaculture and allied sectors in your islands.
Trade and markets have not been neglected as areas where the EU's action in favour of the Canary Islands, as an outermost region, has been taken. A few examples will illustrate this.
In addition to their permanent population, the Canary Islands welcome millions of tourists to their shores every year. The people who gladly come here are seeking not only to enjoy this lovely climate, but also to sample the diverse and tasty food, especially seafood, offered to them. To facilitate the supply of seafood products to the Canary Islands' market, companies here can benefit from a special customs regime enabling Canarian companies to save around 10 million euros every year in import duties on seafood products.
But not all seafood products are consumed locally. The Canary Islands seafood industry is selling its products in overseas markets. The EU recognises this, and to compensate for the additional marketing costs incurred in sending goods to continental Europe, companies in the Canary Islands can benefit from compensation for transport and other related costs under the POSEI scheme. This scheme is very flexible as competent authorities have the latitude to make changes as regards the fish species covered by the scheme or the amounts of money spent on each individual species within the annual budget.
As a final remark, I would underline that the Canary Islands fully benefit from the EU's common organisation of markets in fishery and aquaculture products. Its range of instruments includes aid for start-ups and operational plans for producer organisations, as also support for these organisations if they withdraw products from the market when prices fall below a given level.
Markets policy is included in the review of the Common Fisheries Policy. Your input on this important area will be most welcome.
And that goes for every aspect of our reform process. We are now entering the final month of the CFP reform consultation and I would encourage you all to have your say on the future of fisheries in the European Union. Where stakeholder views on this consultation are concerned, you can be sure that the more we receive the better it is for us in the Commission. Your insightful input will give us one more valuable foundation stone on which we can build a reformed Common Fisheries Policy which will stand for generations to come and which will be able to withstand the future challenges that it will face.
I look forward to exploring these issues, and more, in greater detail, in our round table discussion.