The member states support the aims of the EU common fisheries policy reform, which seeks to restore fish stocks, put an end to wasteful practices and to increase the economic viability of the fisheries. The Council held a public debate on 19 July on the Commission proposal for the reform, thus officially starting the reform process.
All of the member states support the aim of ensuring the sustainability of the European fisheries by restoring overfished European stocks (82 % of Mediterranean stocks and 36 % of Atlantic stocks are overfished). They welcomed the proposal to use the "ecosystem approach" and to introduce multi-annual management plans, which would be based on reliable scientific data. At the same time, several states consider that implementing the system of "maximum sustainable yields" by 2015 might be "unrealistic" and that a more "gradual" approach is needed.
The ban on discards (throwing the unwanted fish overboard) is also widely supported by the member states, but several would also prefer a longer deadline for its implementation. Others, on the contrary, believe the ban could come into effect earlier than the proposed date of 2016.
Banning discards should encourage fishermen to find more environmentally-friendly solutions, for example, the use of more selective fishing gear. Compliance with this rule and control will have to be ensured by the member states.
Some ministers would like the system of trade in fishing rights, or "concessions", have more "safeguards" to avoid the concentration of too many rights in the hands of a few. The proposed safeguards include exemption from this system for small-scale fleets, making the concessions tradable at the national level only and making them available exclusively for the fishermen .
The reform will decentralise decision-making at the regional level to make it more effective: the EU will only provide for strategic guidelines, whereas the details and the implementation will be decided by member states and the fishing industry.
Proposals relating to aquaculture were met with enthusiastic support from the Council. This sector (both marine water and freshwater) has the potential to bring growth to both coastal and inland areas and reduce the EU's dependence on imports (currently covering 2/3 of its fish consumption).
All the member states support the proposal that fishery agreements with the third countries should promote good governance and sound management of marine resources.
It is estimated that, fully implemented, the reform could help increase EU's fish stocks by 70 per cent, its catches by 17 per cent and would make it possible to treble profit margins, all in only 10 years. The proposed reform "package" will now have to be examined in detail by the Council and adopted by both the Council of the EU and the European Parliament.
Press release (pdf)
Q and A on the Fisheries policy reform
EU common fisheries policy