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European Commission


Brussels, 10 December 2013

Questions and Answers on the reformed Common Fisheries Policy

The overall objective of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to make fishing sustainable - environmentally, economically and socially. The new policy will bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels and will stop wasteful fishing practices. It will provide EU citizens with a stable, secure and healthy food supply for the long term. It seeks to bring new prosperity to the fishing sector, create new opportunities for jobs and growth in coastal areas, and end dependence on subsidies. EU financial assistance through the proposed European Maritime and Fisheries Fund will be available to support the sustainability objectives of the new policy.

Why is a new policy necessary?

Europe’s fisheries policy is in urgent need of reform. Vessels are still catching more fish than can be safely reproduced. The fishing industry is facing an uncertain future.

Against this background, the European Commission proposed in 2011 an ambitious reform of the policy. This reform is about putting in place the conditions for a better future for fish and fisheries alike, as well as the marine environment that supports them. The reformed CFP will contribute to the Europe 2020 Strategy and the policy will work towards robust economic performance of the industry, inclusive growth and enhanced cohesion in coastal regions.

What are the main elements of the new policy?

Sustainability is at the heart of the reform

Fishing sustainably means fishing at levels that do not endanger the reproduction of stocks and at the same time maximises catches for fishermen. This level is known as the 'maximum sustainable yield' (MSY). Under the new CFP, stocks must be fished at these levels. This MSY objective is set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas, and was confirmed at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development as a target the world should reach by 2015 where possible. The new CFP shall set the fishing levels at MSY levels by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020 for all fish stocks.

Estimates show that if stocks are exploited in this way, stock sizes would increase significantly, with improved catch levels and revenues from fishing.

Fishing sustainably will also help to stabilise prices under transparent conditions, bringing clear benefits for consumers.

Multi-annual, ecosystem-based management

Multi-annual plans remain at the centre of the management of our fisheries. The plans will move from the current single-stock plans to fisheries-based plans. They will cover more fish stocks in fewer plans in support of reaching sustainability. Under the scope of these plans, annual fishing opportunities will be fixed by Council. The plans may also contain other conservation and technical measures which are part of the proposed toolbox of instruments.

To rebuild a viable fishing economy in Europe, the boundaries of the marine environment must be respected more effectively. EU fisheries management will be governed by the ecosystem approach and the precautionary approach to ensure that the impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem are limited. This will safeguard the marine resources.

Banning discards

Discarding - the practice of throwing unwanted fish overboard - is estimated at 23% of total catches (substantially more in some fisheries). This unacceptable practice will be phased out with a precise timeline for implementation (progressively between 2015 and 2019) and in combination with some flanking measures. Fishermen will be obliged to land all the commercial species that they catch. Residual catches of under-sized fish can generally not be sold for human consumption.

This ban will lead to more reliable data on fish stocks, support better management and improve resource efficiency. It is also an incentive for fishermen to avoid unwanted catches by means of technical solutions such as more selective fishing gear.

Member States have to make sure that their fishing vessels are equipped to ensure detailed documentation of all activities so as to monitor compliance with the obligation to land all catches.

Management of fishing fleet capacity

Member States will have to ensure that the fleet capacity (number and size of vessels) is in balance with the fishing opportunities. Where a Member State identifies overcapacity in a fleet segment, it will develop an action plan to reduce this overcapacity. If a Member State does not achieve the necessary reduction of the fleet capacity, funding under the European financial instrument may be suspended.

Decentralised governance

The new CFP brings decisions closer to the fishing grounds and clarifies the roles and obligations of each actor. It will end micro-management from Brussels: EU legislators will define the general framework, the principles and standards, the overall targets, the performance indicators and the timeframes. Member States will then cooperate at regional level and develop the actual implementing measures. When all Member States concerned agree, these recommendations can be transposed into rules applicable to all fishermen concerned.

Support for small-scale fisheries

In the EU, the small-scale fleet accounts for 77% of the total EU fleet in vessel numbers, but on average its impact on the resources is less, with only 8% of the EU total in tonnage (vessel size) and 32% of EU engine power. Small-scale coastal fisheries often play an important role in the social fabric and the cultural identity of many of Europe's coastal regions. They therefore require specific support. The reformed CFP extends to 2022 the right for Member States to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coastline.

Developing sustainable aquaculture

A better framework for aquaculture will increase production and supply of seafood in the EU, reduce dependence on imported fish and contribute to growth in coastal and rural areas. By 2014, Member States will draft national strategic plans to improve conditions for aquaculture, remove administrative barriers and uphold environmental, social and economic standards for the farmed-fish industry. A new Aquaculture Advisory Council will be established to give advice on industry-related issues. There is a clear EU dimension in aquaculture development: strategic choices made at national level can have a bearing on such development in neighbouring Member States.

Improving scientific knowledge

Reliable information and knowledge about the state of our fisheries and the marine resources is essential to support sound management decisions and effective implementation of the reformed CFP. Member states will be entrusted with collecting, maintaining and sharing data about fish stocks, fleets and the impact of fishing at sea-basin level. The policies will be adopted in accordance with the best available scientific advice. National research programmes will be established to coordinate this activity.

New market policy - empowerment of the sector and better informed consumers

The new market policy aims to strengthen the competitiveness of the EU industry, improve the transparency of the markets, and ensure a level playing field for all products marketed in the Union.

The existing intervention regime will be modernized and simplified: producer organisations will be allowed to buy up fisheries products when prices fall under a certain level, and store the products for placing them on the market at a later stage. This system will foster market stability.

Producer organisations will also play a greater role in collective management, monitoring and control. New marketing standards on labelling, quality and traceability will give consumers clearer information and help them support sustainable fisheries. Certain labelling information will be compulsory, whilst others may be supplied on a voluntary basis.

Taking international responsibility

Many of the world's fish stocks are reported as being either fully exploited or overexploited, according to the FAO. The EU, being the world's largest importer of fisheries products in terms of value, must act abroad as at home. The external fisheries policy must be an integrated part of the CFP. In international and regional organisations, the EU will therefore advocate the principles of sustainability and conservation of fish stocks and marine biodiversity. It will establish alliances and undertake actions with key partners to combat illegal fishing and reduce overcapacity.

In bilateral fishing agreements with non-EU countries, the EU will promote sustainability, good governance and the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Sustainable Fisheries Partnership Agreements (SFPAs) will replace the existing Agreements and they will ensure that the exploitation of fishery resources takes place on the basis of sound scientific advice only targeting surplus resources that the partner country cannot or does not want to fish itself. Under SFPAs, partner countries shall be compensated for granting access to their fishing resources and financial assistance shall be provided to the partner countries for the implementation of a sustainable fisheries policy.

Will there be new rules on Control and Enforcement?

The proposal is consistent with the EU's new control regime from 2010 and integrates the basic elements of the control and enforcement regime for compliance with the rules of the CFP. However, the necessary changes will be made to the legislation on technical measures and on control, to enable the entry into force of the landing obligation. In light of the introduction of the landing obligation the Commission proposes monitoring and control obligations in particular in relation to fully documented fishery, as well as pilot projects on new fisheries control technologies that contribute to sustainable fishing.

When will the reform come into effect?

With the new policy now formally agreed by Council and Parliament, the reformed CFP will be applied from 1 January 2014. Implementation of the new rules will be progressive, for instance on the landing obligation, because there is a need for the sector to adapt and to be able to deliver results. But the reform sets clear deadlines.

For more information:

Reform of the CFP website:

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