North Sea Regional Advisory Council: a model 1st year?

Published on November 8, 2005

The North Sea Regional Advisory Council (NS RAC) held its second General Assembly in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 20, marking a busy and successful year.

Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) were provided for under the 2002 reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), and specifically in Council Regulation 2731/2002, to provide enhanced stakeholder involvement in fisheries management at regional level. The RACs are able to submit advice, recommendations and suggestions of their own accord or at the specific request of the European Commission or a Member State concerned regarding EU fisheries policy.

The NS RAC, the first of its kind, was formally established by the Commission on 1 November 2004, and held its first General Assembly (GA) in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 November1. With the legal details set out in a Council Decision of July 2004, more RACs, for EU waters and beyond, have gradually been developed and are at varying stages of formal establishment. The membership composition of the RACs, including the NS RAC, is 2/3 industry representatives with 1/3 representing “other interests”, including the environmental NGO community.

Accomplishments in 2005

The second GA held in Stockholm marked a busy and eventful first year for the NS RAC, which has undoubtedly accomplished much in a short time. The Annual Report for the NS RAC was presented before the GA, and highlighted several key accomplishments including:

  • The formulation of advice concerning management measures for North Sea plaice, as well as specific advice for the Plaice Box and the Shetland Box.
  • The development of opinions on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas and management arrangements for 2005.

It was obvious that the core work of the NS RAC is accomplished through its four Working Groups, such as the Flatfish Working Group and the Demersal Working Group, both of which produced the respective advice and opinions listed above, as well as a Spatial Planning Working Group and a Skagerrak and Kattegat Working Group.

Other key events and accomplishments of the past year included the successful meetings of the NS RAC Executive Committee, as well as various coordination meetings between representatives of the NS RAC with the European Commission.

Update on the EFF

In a keynote presentation to the GA, the European Commission reported on the emerging European Fisheries Fund (EFF), particularly the recent Presidency compromise and the current state of play of the negotiations on fisheries subsidy use in 2007-2013. Of note:

  • The European Commission has remained firm on its position of no funding provision for new vessels, although negotiations in this area continue;
  • A possibility of funding for new, more energy-efficient engines for vessels remains, however this is still being debated as well.

New Honorary Chair elected

The NS RAC GA also marked the departure of Michel Claes from the Stichting voor Duurzame Visserijonkwikkeling (SDVO) in Belgium as Honorary Chair of the GA and the subsequent appointment of Patrice Leduc, Président du Comité régional des pêches, France.

Although the first of the European RACs, the NS RAC has clearly found its own structure and working procedures, some of which appear to be closely followed by other emerging RACs. Undoubtedly, the NS RAC has had a productive first year, but it remains to be seen whether or not these Regional Advisory Councils will truly lead to a more active, balanced and fair involvement of stakeholders in the management of European fisheries.

1) The North Sea Commission Fisheries Partnership was an existing group of fishers and fisheries scientists which facilitated the establishment of the North Sa Regional Advisory Council.