MARINET makes submission to EU Fisheries Reform public consultation

The EU has commenced a process which will lead to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Up until now, the CFP has been determined by the Council of Ministers, with MEPs and the Parliament having no say in the matter. However, following the passing of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament is now a party in constitutional terms to the formulation of the Common Fisheries Policy. This means there there is now a wider democratic input, and the new Common Fisheries Policy will have to reflect the wishes of the European Parliament.

The first stage in the current reform process has involved the issuing of a Green Paper (pdf file) by the EU Commission related to a public consultation which expired on 31st December 2009. The submissions made by organisations and the public to the Commission under this public consultation may be viewed at A wider set of background papers relating to the CFP have been placed by the European Commission on a website titled: CFP A User’s Guide.

MARINET takes the view that the reform of the CFP will not make progress, or come to a satisfactory outcome, until it accepts, firstly, the primacy of law over policy, and secondly that policy must be determined by a full and informed implementation of the ecosytem-based approach to marine management.

In the case of the primacy of law over policy, this means that the reformed CFP must accept and have incorporated within it the principles of the EU’s Marine Strategy Framework Directive (pdf file) and the requirements of Council Regulation (EC) 2371/2002 (pdf file) on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy.

In the case of policy, the reformed CFP must fully implement the ecosystem-based approach (pdf file) to marine management, and ensure that the CFP applies both the principles of ecosytem integrity and a full range of management tools which together constitute the ecosytem-based approach to the rebuilding of commercial fish stocks to former, historical levels. Of particular note in this regard is the Communication of the European Commission, COM (2008) 187 final (pd file)on the role of the Common Fisheries Policy in implementing the ecosystem approachecosystem approach An ecosystem-based approach to management represents a new and more strategic way of thinking. It puts the emphasis on a management regime that maintains the health of ecosystems alongside appropriate human use of the marine environment, for the benefit of current and future generations. This requires setting clear environmental objectives both at the general and specific level, basing management of the marine environment on the principles of sustainable development, conservation of biodiversity, robust science, the precautionary principle and stakeholder involvement. Ref, DEFRA, Safeguarding Our Seas, section 1.17 (2002) to marine management.

MARINET’s submission to the European Commission has spelt out the issues very clearly, and has expressed concern that at present the Green Paper on CFP Reform appears neither to recognise fully the primacy of law over policy, nor the essential need for the reformed CFP to be firmly grounded in the ecosystem-based approach. Until both of these matters are fully incorporated into the CFP, any attempt at reform will fail and the serious decline in European commercial fish stocks (over 80% of commercial fish stocks are being overfished beyond their maximum sustainable yield, and 30% of these stocks are beyond their safe biological limit and thus in danger of permanent, irreversible collapse) will, disturbingly, remain unaddressed.


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