WWF Fish Campaign Newsletter - October 2013
The October Newsletter includes an editorial by Tony Long on the final results of the EU Common Fisheries Policy Reform (here below). The Newsletter is part of WWF Fisheries Campaign and is distributed in English, Spanish, French, Polish and German.
A genuine reform?
But with the European Parliament fully involved in fisheries decisions for the first time, we had great expectations. The high point was the Parliament’s plenary vote in February when, voting with a massive majority, a genuine reform seemed within reach. But a new threat loomed when the vote in the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee (PECH) in June on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) threatened to sink these previously hard fought gains.
This € 6.5 billion funding package spells out how subsidies will be spent to implement the new policy. Following the money was always going to be the true test of how ambitious this reform really would be. PECH members were asked to produce a plan that could promote long-term sustainable fisheries. But instead the PECH Committee voted in favour of reintroducing subsidies for the construction of new fishing vessels and fleet modernisation. If in the autumn the EP votes in the same way as the PECH committee, stock recovery could be set back decades.
This is especially true for the Mediterranean, where the bulk of funds on fleet renewal will be spent, and where 88 percent of the stocks are overfished. If we want to reduce overfishing, this was the wrong decision.
Investment in new boats and equipment will create further overcapacity. Fishermen will be able to travel further from port to reach more distant fish stocks, the opposite of what was expected – and needed – from this reform. We are in danger of going backwards in the current reform unless this PECH Committee vote is overturned in plenary.
The EU committed to phase out subsidies for vessel construction during the last CFP reform in 2002. And, at the Rio+20 Summit in June 2012, all participating governments, including the EU, pledged to phase out fisheries subsidies that contribute to overfishing.
The combination of current reforms of the CFP and EMFF has provided the EU with a huge opportunity to stop overfishing, not only by reforming the Basic Regulation, but also through a significant reduction of harmful subsidies to the fishing sector. There are plenty of positive ways to spend fisheries funds, including allocating money to promote schemes that will promote fish stock recovery and improve fisheries governance, particularly as we move towards regionalisation.
Reversing years of overfishing is exactly the direction that the public expects from European decision-makers when allocating its scarce public resources.