All change - reforming Europe's fisheries policy

Background - April 26, 2010
The EU’s fisheries and seafood markets are managed centrally through the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). This overarching legislation is reviewed and revised once per decade, with the latest ongoing reform due for completion in early 2013. The outcome will be a full new set of basic rules, timelines and objectives of fisheries management, applying both in and outside EU waters.

Germany's fisheries minister in Brussels. Ministers routinely ignore scientific advice and set wreckless fishing quotas.

In 2009, the European Commission opened the reform of the CFP with the release of its Green Paper/Communication analysing the systematic mismanagement of European fisheries. As part of the subsequent one-year consultation, Greenpeace submitted its views on the CFP reform along with hundreds of other stakeholders.

The Commission is expected to release its proposals for a new set of CFP rules in May or June 2011, after which the Council and Parliament will work to revise and eventually adopt a new regulation.

The new CFP rules will have to tackle the causes and consequences of overfishing and must ensure that member states can restore and maintain the marine environment at a good environmental status. All waters must reach a good status by 2020 at the latest, in line with the 2008 Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the criteria outlined in the September 2010 Commission decision.

The other EU legislation relevant to marine conservation include most notably:
  • the EU Habitats and Birds Directives (EC Reg 92/43 and 79/409), which protects certain species and habitats and requires the protection of areas of sea as part of the EU's Natura 2000 network of protected areas;
  • the Water Framework Directive (EC Reg 2000/60), which is aimed at achieving good ecological status for coastal waters, among others, by addressing pollution in rivers and lakes;
  • various provisions under the current Common Fisheries Policy limiting the impact of certain fishing practices on the marine environment;
  • Environmental Impact Assessment (EC Reg 85/337) rules that require prior assessment and authorisation of certain plans and projects with a potential impact on the environment;
  • various laws addressing land-based pollution, waste water treatment and ship-safety rules;
  • various laws and policy instruments resulting from international agreements, such as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity; and
  • the directive on environmental liability (EC Reg 2004/35), which aims to prevent and remedy environmental damage.
Other laws have a bearing on marine conservation, including Europe's Marine Directive and elements of international law.