The creation of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) was one of the pillars of the 2002 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). They came about as a response to calls from stakeholders in the fisheries sector who wanted to be more involved in the way fisheries is managed in the EU.
The RACs prepare recommendations and suggestions on fisheries issues relevant to the area they cover and submit them to the Commission and/or to the relevant national authorities. Submissions may be in response to a request from these bodies or on the RACs’ own initiative.
The RACs are made up of representatives of the fisheries sector and other groups affected by the CFP, while scientists are invited to participate in the meetings of the RACs as experts. In each RAC, 2/3 of the members are industry representatives, while 1/3 represents “other interest groups” such as NGOs. The latter group also includes aquaculture producers. The Commission and regional and national representatives of Member States may be present at the meetings as observers.
Seven RACs have been established to cover the following areas or fisheries:
- Baltic Sea BS RAC (operational since March 2006)
- Mediterranean Sea MedRAC (operational since September 2008)
- North Sea NS RAC (operational since November 2004)
- North Western Waters NWW RAC (operational since September 2005)
- South Western Waters SWW RAC (operational since April 2007)
- Pelagic stocks (blue whiting, mackerel, horse mackerel and herring) in all areas, PRAC (operational since August 2005)
- High seas/long distance fleet fishing in all non-EU waters LD RAC (operational since March 2007).
The European Commission meets with the RACs on a regular basis to discuss current policy initiatives and priorities, as well as to ensure coordination on issues that concern all RACs. The RACs have also established an Inter-RAC Committee to deal with issues of common interest, such as budgetary questions and their participation in the Community Fisheries Control Agency.
Often, the RACs have several Working Groups. Each RAC is free to establish the groups it needs to perform its work. For example, the Baltic Sea RAC has three WGs: the Demersal WG, the Pelagic WG and the Salmonid WG. The WGs discuss issues in detail and prepare draft positions for the Executive Committee, which decides on the advice or recommendations sent to different authorities.
The Fisheries Secretariat is a member of the Baltic Sea RAC, and one of eight other interest groups represented in the Executive Committee. The main aim of the BS RAC is to prepare and provide advice to the European Commission and the Member States on matters relating to management of the fisheries in the Baltic Sea. In the BS RAC, the Fisheries Secretariat is also active in the Demersal Working Group. The Fisheries Secretariat coordinates its work in the BS RAC with representatives of environmental, angling and consumer NGOs in the Baltic Sea region.