The creation of Advisory Councils (ACs – formaly Regional Advisory Councils) 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 RCs 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 ACs’ own initiative.
The ACs 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 ACs as experts. In each AC, 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 ACs have been established to cover the following areas or fisheries:
- Baltic Sea BSAC (operational since March 2006)
- Mediterranean Sea MedAC (operational since September 2008)
- North Sea NSAC (operational since November 2004)
- North Western Waters NWWAC (operational since September 2005)
- South Western Waters SWWAC (operational since April 2007)
- Pelagic stocks (blue whiting, mackerel, horse mackerel and herring) in all areas, P RAC (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 ACs 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 ACs have several Working Groups. Each AC is free to establish the groups it needs to perform its work. For example, the Baltic Sea AC 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 AC, and one of eight other interest groups represented in the Executive Committee. The main aim of the BSAC 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 BSAC, the Fisheries Secretariat is also active in the Demersal Working Group. The Fisheries Secretariat coordinates its work in the BSAC with representatives of environmental, angling and consumer NGOs in the Baltic Sea region.