Danish presidency opts for status quo not sea change

NGOs call for boycott of compromise on fisheries policy reform

Press release - June 8, 2012
Brussels - As next week’s Council is expected to agree a joint position on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform, leading green and campaign groups warn that the proposed deal would not stop the depletion of fish stocks for another decade. By agreeing to the ‘general approach’ that will be tabled by the Danish EU presidency, Member States would settle for a European fisheries policy of the lowest common denominator, without any ambition to achieve sustainable fisheries or save fishing jobs.

In an effort to achieve an agreement before the conclusion of the Danish Presidency, horse-trading to accommodate all member states has resulted in a significant weakening of the Commission's reform proposal from July 2011:

The required recovery of fish stocks by 2015 [1], already watered down in the Commission proposal, has been further delayed and the goal posts shifted. Ministers are only willing to commit to reduce fishing pressure progressively which would allow overfishing to continue for the next decade. No timelines are given for the introduction of multi-annual plans to replace the current management system based on yearly quotas. While ministers acknowledge that action plans are needed to reduce excess fishing capacity, timelines and specific measures are missing from the deal. Non-committal wording on control and enforcement and financial assistance allow for continued impunity and misappropriation of subsidies, argue green groups.

Birdlife Europe, Greenpeace, Ocean2012, Oceana, Seas At Risk and WWF urge European governments to recognise the errors of the past and show political resolve to bring European fisheries back from the brink. Green groups call for a complete rejection of the compromise text and urge the European parliament to challenge the Council's irresponsible reform plan.

A fisheries policy overhaul in the USA has demonstrated that it is possible to achieve the recovery of fish stocks within a limited period of time [2]. In the EU just one-quarter of fish stocks are at sustainable levels, i.e. at or above levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Publications by the OECD, the World Bank, the Commission and others all show that European fisheries would profit tremendously from stock recovery through increase of catches, larger profit margins, higher return on investment and creation of jobs. A 31% decrease in fishing jobs since 2002 shows the bleakness of the European fisheries crisis which can only be remedied by a root and branch reform.

Notes to the editor:
[1] The EU should aim for stock levels above those that can produce reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015. The Danish presidency compromise text proposes to restore and maintain fish stocks at least at levels which can produce MSY by 2015, where possible, and by 2020 for all stocks at the latest. This is a significant difference. For an explanation read:
or watch: http://vimeo.com/37718721

[2]The amended Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act was authorised in 2007: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/msa2005/docs/MSA_amended_msa%20_20070112_FINAL.pdf