Will Europe Deliver on A Reformed CFP?

Europe surprised many by adopting the reformed Common fisheries policy.

The new law, is strong on ambitions and  contains ambitious commitments to re-shape Europe’s fisheries.

 Slipping So Soon?

But, in the last few weeks I have wondered whether ambition will be delivered when the new European Commission takes offices.

Commissioner Damanaki made much of the running to bring the CFP to life. Some of those intricately involved in the negotiations may have been critical of her stubbornness. But, if the history, or the real history, of what happened to force the Commission’s proposal out of the doors of the Commission and into the hands of a skeptical Council and surprisingly ambitious European Parliament-which seemed to bypass the vested interests of the fisheries committee – her role will be seen as crucial.


3 Immediate Challenges

 The next 12 to 24 we will have a good indication of whether the reform is delivering. I see three areas to track to mark progress.

Make It Work At Home

They all hang around the implementation of the CFP at home, in terms of ensuring that discards ban is working, and it is working in partnership with an effective control and enforcement system.

If control and enforcement is working at sea and at the ports and is seen to be working that is good.  CCTV monitoring can already address the concerns about the lack of real compliance at sea. There are of course many in the industry who were against the use of CCTV. The age old response that Danish vessels who were using them were different – over and beyond the obvious that Danish vessels were manned by Danes – seemed to be Little Britain nationalism run wild when other countries used them,  and found them to work in the cold and wet and helped reduce discards.

However, the regulation does provide for CCTV’s use. It most importantly provides for a relatively fail-safe compliance system and sees where the all too recent past shows in many countries whole scale non-compliance.

 Make It Work Outside Europe’s Waters

Beyond for Europe’s quarters, we face a flood of imports of fish and seafood from third countries. Just a few years ago we adopted the IUU regulation. Many people thought it would have little effect. They were so very wrong.

The IUU regulation is helping countries that want and need help to address the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing take on the battle. The European Commission and countries like France are working with fishing ministries and fishermen to address the scourge of corruption that the pollutants the governments and commerce of too many nations.

The prospect of facing a ban of a countries fish exports to their most profitable of markets- Europe -has helped focus the minds of many a fishing minister, and helped them act in the right way.

 What needs to be done?

 In many ways, there is very good news. The market is, as so often is the case, moving far quicker than governments, regulators, or lobbyists can stop them.

Despite the loss of the European Parliament of the deep sea fishing trawling, the supermarkets in France the day after chose to ban the fish that was being caught anyway.

Perhaps the lobby that worked to defeat the proposal will try and pass a law forcing supermarkets to buy their product next?

There are good indications that governments are already backsliding on commitments to discard ban in certain seas. Perhaps the glare of publicity outside the legislative arena means that many officials are moving back to an easy life?

Many in the catching sector seem to be in full denial about the nature and extent of the new CFP. It is like amnesia strikes when the word discards appears.

But, even the fisheries committee rejected the industry’s lobbyist’s demands. Rejections like that must force some sobering reflections the morning after. That sort of rejection must force even the hardest skinned to realize that the game has changed.

NGOs worked tirelessly to bring about reform. The votes at key moments were very close. The skills needed for implementation and the oversight government officials implementing rules are different from those needed for securing new EU legislation.

It will be interesting to see how, and if, NGOs will take up the challenge of implementation that is equal passion and resourcing as they did securing new laws onto the Statute book.