A major reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which aims to cut fishing to sustainable stock levels, end dumping at sea, and base long-term planning on sound scientific data, was approved by Parliament on Wednesday. Overfishing is widely seen as the worst failure of the current CFP, dating from 2002. The new one is to take effect in 2014.
European Commission figures suggest that 80% of Mediterranean stocks and 47% of Atlantic ones are overfished. The reform voted in plenary sets out clear and strong measures to tackle this problem.
"We have shown today that the European Parliament is anything but toothless. We have used our power as a co-legislator, for the first time in fisheries policy, to put a stop to overfishing. Fish stocks should recover by 2020, enabling us to take 15 million tonnes more fish, and create 37,000 new jobs", said fisheries reform rapporteur Ulrike Rodust (S&D, DE). Her report was adopted by 502 votes to 137, with 27 abstentions.
Stop overfishing by ending discards...
Discards - fish thrown back, usually because they are of an unwanted species or size - account for almost a quarter of total EU catches. Most of the discarded species die. To end this wasteful practice, MEPs voted to oblige fishing vessels to land all catches in accordance with a schedule of specific dates for different fisheries, starting from 2014.
Landed catches of fish that are undersized, for example, would be restricted to uses other than human consumption. Member states must ensure that fishing vessels comply with the discard ban.
...and respect maximum sustainable yield
From 2015, EU member states will be prevented from setting quotas that are too high to be sustainable. Fishermen will have to respect the "maximum sustainable yield" (MSY), i.e. catch no more than a given stock can reproduce in a given year. In today's vote, MEPs sought to ensure that stocks recover by 2020 to above MSY levels and sustain them thereafter. Ultimately this should mean more fish, better catches and hence more jobs in the fishing industry.
Long-term planning to replace yearly quota-haggling
The reform will rely on multi-annual fish stock management plans to ensure that fishing stays sustainable. Taking a longer term approach should improve market predictability, which in turn should help the industry to invest better and plan ahead. Multi-annual plans will be based on more reliable and accurate scientific data, which EU member states will be obliged to collect and make available.
Parliament will now start negotiations with the Council and the Commission on the reform plans before their second reading. The Irish Presidency of the Council has repeatedly said it hopes to achieve an agreement the end of June.
Procedure: Co-decision (Ordinary Legislative Procedure), 1st reading