A seminar organised by the European Commission in Brussels this week brought together national and European policymakers, scientists, fishing industry representatives and other stakeholders to discuss first experiences with the implementation of the landing obligation. Speakers focused on lessons learnt and next steps.
The landing obligation is being phased in under the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy. Under the new rules, fishermen will progressively be required to land all fish they catch. Pelagic fisheries were brought under the landing obligation in January 2015, and the landing obligation was extended to some demersal fisheries in the Atlantic and North Sea as from 1 January this year.
According to the EU Commission’s press room, the first reports from Member States indicate that the landing obligation in pelagic fisheries has experienced very few implementation issues. But understanding in other areas, e.g. for larger demersal fisheries, is still limited.
‘The landing obligation is new, for all of us. So we are still very much in a phase of learning by doing,’ said European Commission Director General for Fisheries, João Aguiar Machado, encouraging participants to share their experiences with the landing obligation so far and to tell the European Commission what was – and what wasn’t – working.
‘We need to be open and flexible in our approach to finding practical arrangements. But – and I insist on this – we must apply the rules of the CFP, and we must apply them consistently. Today we have an opportunity to discuss how best to do so,’ he said, commenting that looking ahead, not least at the planned phase-in of the landing obligation in the Mediterranean and Black Sea as from 2017, the need for proactive thinking, flexibility and regional collaboration to resolve practical problems that might arise needs to be stressed.