Council General Approach labelled “irresponsible”

Published on July 2, 2012

A joint NGO response to the General Approach, which was agreed to by a majority of Member States at the June Council, has called on MEPs to reject their approach for the CFP reform and “fix Europe’s broken fisheries policy”.

Central to criticisms of the Council are the watering down of targets to recover European fish stocks, through the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) approach. In June, Ministers agreed to the unambitious target of reducing fishing pressure by 2020 for all stocks, while failing to address the need to increase the biomass and abundance of stocks. Moreover, there are loopholes in place for mixed fisheries (GA Art. 9.3) and stocks shared with third countries (GA Art. 2.2bis) which may threaten several vulnerable and data-poor populations. By contrast, the ENVI committee in the European Parliament have stated that stocks should be managed above their MSY level by 2015, with further improvements to be made by 2020.

The Council also weakened the discard ban that has been proposed by the Commission, and is a cornerstone of Commissioner Damanaki’s vision for the CFP. Certain fisheries have been excluded and several derogations from the ban have been proposed in the General Approach. By contrast, concrete measures to improve selectivity and to handle unwanted catches have not been addressed convincingly. Sweden and the Netherlands voted against the Council majority because of reservations regarding the undermining of the MSY principle and the discard ban.

In a surprise move, conditionality clauses for EU financial assistance which would have prevented vessels that have broken the rules from receiving subsidies have been weakened (new GA Art. 50). This was coupled with a watering down of provisions which require Member States to comply with the rules of the new CFP in order to receive funding (new GA Art. 51). The NGO coalition called on MEPs to address these failings, stating that “far too often, EU funds have been abused and given to Member States and operators that have failed to comply with the rules of the CFP. We urge you to ensure that this misuse of public money will no longer be tolerated.”