The last major overhaul of the CFP, adopted in 2013, was a radical overhaul of policies on fisheries with MSY as the goal for all species – which the industry was promised would translate into larger quotas, more seafood and more jobs. Instead, fishermen are blamed for failing to reach ambitious targets that, by definition, were unachievable.
During a hearing organised by the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries, Europêche President Javier Garat presented an analysis of the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). He acknowledged positive trends seen in many fish stocks across Europe, particularly in the North-East Atlantic, but stated that this has been achieved at the expense of capacity and employment.
‘Fishermen have been always promised that all the sacrifices made in the short term will be paid off in the long term,’ he said.
‘However, despite having reduced fishing pressure by half in the NE Atlantic and fishing capacity by 20% (in other words, 20,000 fishing vessels fewer than in 2008), there is a continuous drop in employment. If we look at the total production of seafood in the EU, it has stagnated or even reduced over the last twenty years. The MSY policy is not delivering and cannot be looked at as a sacred rule.’
He commented that fishermen face unrealistic legislation such as the landing obligation, which requires urgent revision, and he said that the need is rational policies, based on science and not campaigns, that support food security, sustainable growth, competitiveness and the social dimension of the CFP.
‘The sector does not want a radical reform, but a surgical revision of the CFP to better balance the protection of biodiversity, sustainable use and food security,’ he said, commenting that in addition to introducing its MSY policy, the CFP also brought in the infamous landings obligation with the goal of eliminating discards.
‘This policy proved one more time how rules fabricated in Brussels and based on emotional campaigns, have little to do with the reality. Our fishermen and women, despite their investments and improvements on gear selectivity, technical developments and research, have been criticised for not fully implementing a failed policy that per definition is unachievable,’ he said.
‘The Commission is trying now to implement the policy through infringement procedures against Member States and making everybody believe that CCTV on board will sort out all the problems. The answer is much easier, we need to revise these rules.’
Javier Garat’s criticisms extended to rules under which the current CFP classifies kitchen, cabin, toilet and accommodation spaces on fishing vessels as part of fishing capacity – a set of inadequate definitions that actively hinder fleet modernisation, and in particular social and safety improvements on board. As such, he said that there is a real need to find alternative formulas for measuring fishing capacity.
He also spoke on the European Commission’s intention to phase out bottom contacting gears, particularly bottom trawling, under the upcoming action plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine, commenting that it is regrettable that there is a complete disconnect of the Action Plan with the CFP evaluation and ongoing negotiations of international environmental goals for 2030.
He highlighted that the Commission will put an end to sustainable and certified EU fisheries while at the same time still accepting large scale imports from non-EU bottom trawling fisheries.
‘If we keep adopting unapplicable legislation and new radical environmental policies under the EU Green deal, I am sure there will be plenty of fish in the sea but no fishers to catch it,’ Javier Garat said.
‘The aftermath of Covid-19 and the current war in Ukraine has made governments realise that the EU needs to reduce dependencies on imported food products. The future CFP must go in this direction.’