Greenpeace apprehensive and “disappointed “about EU negotiations on CFP Reform

Greenpeace reports, 15th May 2013, Brussels: “Another marathon session of negotiations on the reform of EU legislation on fisheries has ended in disappointment, said Greenpeace. The ministers have been meeting in Council since Monday to revise their position on the main points of the reform before going into final negotiations with the European Parliament.

A local fishermen flotilla accompanies the Arctic Sunrise on its arrival in Denia, Spain.

A local fishermen flotilla accompanies the Arctic Sunrise on its arrival in Denia, Spain.
Greenpeace is on a European journey in support of sustainable fishing, to meet with local representatives from the growing movement and to support the reform of the European Common Fisheries Policy. Source: Greenpeace

Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “The brakes are on so tight that it’s taken months of intense talks for ministers to move just a fraction. The deal submitted today still lacks the determination needed to turn things around for Europe’s fish stocks and fishing communities, but it just about keeps the door open for final negotiations with the European Parliament. Only leadership from the parliament, which has great political and public support behind it, can now steer the reform safely home.”

Main opposition to reform came from Spain, France, Portugal, Greece and Belgium. These countries in particular objected to a target date for the recovery of Europe’s overfished stocks and insisted for loopholes to be worked into a partial ban on discards. The German minister repeatedly pushed for a better deal, while Sweden was the only country to refuse to sign up to the Council position because of a lack of ambition.

The European Parliament and its negotiator, centre-left MEP Ulrike Rodust, will need to decide whether to continue negotiations on the basis of the Council’s position. Unless ministers are willing to compromise, negotiations will be thrown off course and threaten the chances of reforming fisheries rules in 2013.

In a vote in February, the Parliament overwhelmingly supported an overhaul of the rules which have led to decades of overfishing and a decline of the European fishing industry [1]. On the other hand, EU ministers – in particular from large fishing nations – have resisted reforms [2].

Greenpeace supports a target for fish stock recovery by 2020, a trimming of the fishing fleet to sustainable levels, financial penalties for countries that fail to implement the rules, and a strict ban on the wasteful practice of discarding unwanted fish.

[1] According to the European Commission, around two thirds of European fish stocks are currently fished beyond sustainable levels (, while one third of European fishing jobs have been lost in the last decade (

[2] Joint NGO statement, Fisheries Council: threat of collapse hangs over fisheries reform:

Marinet observes:
We are developing a new campaign action in relation to the EU Common Fisheries Policy. This action concerns EU Fishing Subsidies.

Subsidies from the EU Commission (tax payer) to the EU fleet are in the region 1 billion Euros annually, and when nationally-sourced subsidies are included (i.e. subsidies for fuel, thus enabling vessels to stay at sea longer) the annual subsidy to the EU fleet as a whole is over 3 billion Euros.

Fishing subsidies are therefore a significant factor in keeping fishing vessels at sea, and many fishing vessels would be uneconomic without them. The system of subsidies is therefore artificially maintaining the level of fishing (over-fishing) which is placing severe pressure on fish stocks and causing them to decline. They have been central to the extraction-based management practices and philosophy that have characterised the Common Fisheries Policy.

The CFP reform process that has been the subject of such intense negotiation and debate in recent months appears likely to deliver some changes – a measure of control (not elimination) over discards, a referencing of fishing levels to a complicated definition of the “maximum sustainable yield” which a stock can deliver each year, and some decentralisation of fishing management to regional areas – but the reform process has, in Marinet’s view, essentially failed.

It has failed because there is still no recognition that stocks are so low that we have lost fish “food security” (EU stocks can now only feed us for six months of the year), and therefore stocks need to be rebuilt in order to re-establish food “security” – which, at a basic minimum, means that stocks have to double in size before this basic minimum is met.

It has failed because there is still no recognition that stocks can only be rebuilt to such a target level (double in size) – and preferably beyond such a target level – if we take action to protect fish spawning and nursery grounds from all fishing with fishermen and their vessels being employed – using money from the fishing subsidy system – as the managers of these closed areas, thus giving fishermen financial security both in the short term whilst key fishing areas are closed and stocks grow again in size, and also in the long term from abundant fish in the sea with doubled/trebled stock levels, thus giving the industry a huge and vastly improved economic dividend.

And most fundamentally, the reform process has failed because it has not moved away from the old extraction-based management principles, and it has not taken the opportunity that the CFP reform negotiations have offered to put the industry on a new, forward looking set of conservation-based principles.

Whilst this outcome may appear depressing for all those who share our vision of genuine CFP reform – and there are many fishermen who share this vision too – the struggle is not yet wholly lost. The old, extraction-based system of management is essentially bankrupt in financial terms. The vessels that put to sea and over-exploit fish stocks can only do so because of the substantial financial subsidies which they receive from the EU and their national government. Without these subsidies, these vessels would be uneconomic and unable to finance their activities. In short, they would cease to go to sea, and over-fishing would cease likewise.

Therefore if the system of financial subsidies can be reformed, hope remains. And it so happens that between June and December of this year the European Parliament, Commission and Council of Fisheries Ministers will be reviewing the whole system of subsidies and the Regulations (EC 1198/2006 and EC 498/2007) which validate them. Consequently, if these Regulations can be reformed – converted to conservation-based management principles rather than extraction-based principles – then genuine reform of EU fishing practices can still be achieved.

As a result, Marinet is launching a new dimension of our CFP reform work in order to achieve this specific result.

We cannot achieve this alone. We need the voice of reason to prevail and, most specifically, we need your active support to advance and articulate this voice of reason. Let us explain what we are doing right now, and the destination we hope to arrive at.

Right now, we are producing a short film for YouTube which explains the problem of fishing subsidies to the ordinary person (the tax payer – the public as a whole who are paying for the subsidy system) and how subsidies need to shift from extraction-based to conservation-based principles. And, linked to this film and this simple explanation of the issue will be a Petition addressed to Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission and all the Fisheries Ministers on the EU Council of Ministers. This Petition urges them to reform the Regulations and Fishing Subsidies. The Petition is addressed to people not just in the UK but across Europe, and we are aiming for at least 1 million signatures. We are not aiming any lower, only higher. This is the scale of the impact we must make, and this is why we will need your active support to distribute and disseminate this film and its Petition .

If you can help in the distribution of this film and Petition, please contact us (

In addition, we have written to Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to take up the whole question of how the system of EU Fishing Subsidies operates. The subsidies system in its present form has been operating since 2007 and, it so happens, the EU decided in 2007 to cease to compile information itself on how subsidies are spent (who receives what, why and when) and to delegate this collection of information to individual Member governments who are then, in turn, meant to send it to the Commission.

In reality, each Member country operates a data system that is different so that there is no cohesion in the data that is compiled and, in addition, some countries have failed to report to the Commission the annual data they are meant to be collecting, with the result that there is no comprehensive central data base on how fishing subsidies are being spent. In essence, the system is operating with a huge transparency deficit and is, effectively, unaudited. This appalling state of affairs is the subject of our letter with its series of 8 questions to President Barroso.

Further, we have sent this same letter to all EU Fisheries Ministers, and have asked them whether they find this state of affairs acceptable, and we have asked them how they intend to reform the subsidies system.

The subsidy system must change and, if it does, the Common Fisheries Policy also changes.

Power is in your hands. We can succeed, so please contact us and we will keep you fully informed as this campaign develops. Act now, and thus convert your power for change into actual change.

Please do share this

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS