Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy: Significant Steps Forward but Not Enough

16 May 2013

Following discussions at the recent Slow Fish event regarding the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and future prospects for the sector, Slow Food is pleased to see some positive results coming out of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels this week. However, the marathon two-days session to reach agreement on measures to stop overfishing and to rebuild sustainable fish stocks also left the association concerned on a number of points.

Ministers adopted a revised mandate to facilitate the next stage of negotiations between the Irish Presidency and the European Parliament on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

“We recognize that the Council of Fisheries Ministers has taken an important step forward by supporting the recovery of fish stocks,” said Serena Maso, Italian coordinator for OCEAN2012, a coalition that includes Slow Food. “However, the ministers have not set a deadline within which the stocks need to be built back up. This will make it difficult to determine fishing limits to enable the recovery of the European stocks without further delay.”

According to Marco Costantini, marine officer at WWF Italy: “While the agreement reached between the member states is a positive step forward, unfortunately the ministers have only meet half the goals expressed by the European Parliament in their proposals to save fishing.”

The European Parliament’s CFP rapporteur Ulrike Rodust was also hesitant, stating that she would have liked “a more courageous decision.” Last February, the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly for a far-reaching reform of the policy that would allow for the rapid recovery of fish stocks.
The Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki was more positive, stating that she believed an agreement could be reached by June. Shortly the Parliament will analyze the Council’s new text, deciding whether or not to accept the “compromise” prior to negotiations continuing from May 28-29.

ANSA reported that the new Italian Minister for Fisheries Nunzia De Girolamo is satisfied with the fish discards outcomes. The new law will apply to small pelagic fish such as anchovies and sardines from 2014 (30% of the Italian catch), rather than 2015 as originally proposed, giving the sector more time to prepare. The discards ban will be then be extended to other Mediterranean species (hake, mullet, clams and so on) from January 1, 2019. The ministers also agreed on a ‘minimum’ discards clause which would give fishermen the right to discard up to 5% of their catch, instead of the 7%. The EU believes this is an inevitable measure, but that it must be applied in line with the management plans already in force in the Mediterranean. This last element regards a precise request from the Italian delegation supported by other Mediterranean delegations – France, Spain and Greece – in order to avoid new and lengthy burecratic processes, and to fully utilize the regulatory tools already developed.

“Slow Food will develop a more detailed analysis of the Council’s document shortly,” said Silvio Greco, president of the Slow Fish Scientific Committee. “With respect to Italy’s position, we are concerned that Minister De Girolamo has mitigated national positions expressed previously, despite the support she has shown us and her presence at Slow Fish. We believe that protecting the economic activities related to fishing means first and foremost protecting marine environments and species at risk.”

Elisa Virgillito

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