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Procedure : 2008/2178(INI)
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PV 12/01/2009 - 22
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Tuesday, 13 January 2009 - Strasbourg
CFP and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management

European Parliament resolution of 13 January 2009 on the CFP and the ecosystem approach to fisheries management (2008/2178(INI))

The European Parliament,

–   having regard to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December 1982,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 of 20 December 2002 on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the common fisheries policy (CFP)(1),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication entitled 'The role of the CFP in implementing an ecosystem approach to marine management' (COM(2008)0187),

–   having regard to the conclusions of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council of 29 and 30 September 2008 on the above-mentioned Commission Communication,

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Fisheries (A6-0485/2008),

A.   whereas in any geographical area all living organisms (people, plants, animals and micro-organisms), their physical surroundings (such as soil, water, air) and the natural cycles that sustain them, are all interconnected,

B.   whereas developments, interactions and changes within such ecosystems have direct and often unwanted or unforeseen effects on other elements both inside and outside the system and whereas, likewise, developments occurring outside the system can have an immediate impact on the system,

C.   whereas an ecosystem approach to fisheries currently provides the best basis for a global management and decision-making system which takes into account all of the stakeholders and elements concerned, their requirements and needs, as well as future effects on the system and its interactions,

D.   whereas fishing in the waters of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of each Member State is important for its sovereignty and independence, particularly in terms of food,

E.   whereas our knowledge of the oceans and the factors that influence them is still limited, but is nonetheless sufficient for us to know that many fish stocks, both commercial and non-commercial, are depleted in the EU and elsewhere, and that while this is due to many factors, in most cases the principal cause is over-fishing,

F.   whereas scientific research on the sustainability of fishery resources presupposes the rejection of any assumptions based on preconceived ideas and, consequently, the proposal for an ecosystem-based analysis of the assessment of fishery resources will be truly ecosystem-based only if it is founded on validated scientific data,

G.   whereas such an ecosystem approach has to be dynamic and flexible in its information and decision-making processes, given the need for constant adaptation owing to the emergence of new scientific knowledge and new interrelations,

H.   whereas, according to the Commission Communication entitled 'Reports from Member States on behaviours which seriously infringed the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy in 2006' (COM(2008)0670), serious and worrying infringements of the CFP rules remain frequent, despite attempts to reduce the capacity of the Community fleet,

I.   whereas the assessment of fishery resources is concerned with the sustainability of stocks, and whereas this is fundamental for fishing activity, and safeguarding this sustainability is a matter for the Member States,

J.   whereas the main objective of fisheries policy, accepted by all the States participating in the World Summit for Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002, is to obtain maximum sustainable catches,

K.   whereas the sharp decline in income in the fishing industry is due to the depletion of many fish stocks of commercial value, which has made it necessary to impose restrictions on fishing activity, and to the stagnation/fall in prices at first sale, accompanied by the exponential increase in factors of production (diesel and petrol), a situation which is even worse in countries where these costs are higher, in particular owing to the absence or inadequacy of measures to support the industry by comparison with those adopted by other countries,

L.   whereas the Commission has proposed that a debate be launched on a possible reform of the CFP,

1.  Welcomes the above-mentioned Commission Communication on an ecosystem approach to marine management and emphasises that this initiative represents a contribution towards ensuring the exploitation of fishery resources so as to create sustainable conditions from the social, environmental and economic points of view;

2.  Stresses the need for the ecosystem approach to fisheries management to lead to a dynamic and flexible system of management, mutual learning and research, so as to incorporate further variables that might arise out of unforeseen factors of influence or other scientific disciplines in the future;

3.  In this context, calls on the Commission to include in its proposal methods and tools to allow for the mutual exchange of information and data and a continuous learning process among all stakeholders, in order to enable all of them to further develop the ecosystem approach with the objective of showing and proving the benefit for all;

4.  Points out that fishing is a fundamental activity for guaranteeing food and survival for the human race, and considers that this is the primordial aim of any and every fisheries policy;

5.  Draws attention to the key importance of the fisheries sector in some coastal communities of the EU from the economic, social and cultural points of view;

6.  Reiterates that the CFP should promote the modernisation and sustainable development of the fishing industry, safeguarding its socio-economic viability and the sustainability of fisheries resources, and guaranteeing the supply of fish to the public and food sovereignty and security, the preservation of jobs and improved living conditions for fishermen;

7.  Believes that any and every fisheries policy should take account of a multitude of dimensions - social, environmental and economic - that require an integrated and balanced approach that is incompatible with a vision that creates a hierarchy among them according to an a priori definition of priorities;

8.  Stresses that, taking account of its own objectives, a CFP must not be subordinate to other Community policies that have since been defined; considers, on the contrary, that these later policies must safeguard and integrate the objectives of fisheries policy;

9.  Points out that the sustained development of a given coastal region makes it necessary to enhance the interaction between its environmental, natural and human components and promote the quality of life of its fishing communities; reaffirms that a policy for fisheries must start from the principle of interdependence between the welfare of fishing communities and the sustainability of ecosystems of which they are an integral part;

10.  Emphasises, in this context, that it is necessary to recognise the specific character and importance of small-scale inshore fishing and artisanal fishing;

11.  Stresses, consequently, that seeking to meet the food needs of each Member State, safeguarding the viability of the strategic fishing industry and fishing communities and preserving the sustainability of marine ecosystems are not irreconcilable objectives;

12.  Considers that, in order to maintain fish stocks at an acceptable level worldwide, upper limits must also be set on the number of days fishermen may remain at sea;

13.  Points out that the application of an ecosystem approach to marine management necessarily requires a multidisciplinary and intersectoral action encompassing the various measures and policies that have an impact on marine ecosystems - going far beyond and upstream of policies adopted in the area of fisheries - without which it will not be possible to achieve the objectives of this approach;

14.  Reiterates the need to study and adopt measures in relation to a multitude of factors that have a profound impact on the sustainability of marine ecosystems and the state of fishery resources, and consequently on fishing activity, such as coastal and offshore pollution, industrial and agricultural effluents, alterations to river courses, deep-sea dredging, port activity, maritime transport and tourism;

15.  Stresses that there are significant differences between the various marine areas and their respective fishery resources, and also between the various fleets and fishing gear used and their impact on ecosystems, which requires fisheries management measures, such as technical modifications to nets, the closure of certain fishing areas and the reduction of fishing effort, that are diversified, specific and adapted to each case;

16.  Stresses the need to apply mechanisms to subsidise or compensate fishermen affected by the economic and social repercussions of multiannual recovery and management plans and measures to protect ecosystems;

17.  Points out that the necessarily gradual application of a global, interdisciplinary and intersectoral approach to marine management requires that scientific knowledge be constantly improved and deepened in order to guarantee the adoption of measures based on validated scientific data;

18.  Draws attention to the need for the Commission to include the fisheries sector in a genuine intersectoral plan for the preservation of the marine environment, in line with the provisions of the 'Marine Strategy Framework Directive'(2), the environmental pillar of the new European Maritime Policy;

19.  Stresses that scientific fisheries research is an essential tool for fisheries management that is indispensable for identifying the factors that influence the development of fishery resources, with a view to carrying out a quantitative assessment and developing models that make it possible to forecast their development, but also for improving fishing gear, vessels and working and safety conditions for fishermen, in conjunction with their knowledge and experience;

20.  Proposes that scientific studies be carried out capable of identifying the redistribution of marine species exploited by fisheries because of the impact of the recent change in the physical and chemical parameters of waters due to climate change; considers that these studies should serve as a basis for reformulating a number of existing stock recovery plans, for example the recovery plan for hake and langoustine off the Iberian Peninsula;

21.  Draws attention to the need to develop aquaculture research projects in order to replenish stocks of the most endangered species;

22.  Considers, in this connection, that it is necessary to invest in training for human resources, provide adequate financial resources and promote cooperation between the various public bodies in the Member States;

23.  Points out that scientific research should take account of the social, environmental and economic components of fishing activity; considers it essential to assess the impact of the various fisheries management systems/instruments on employment and income in fishing communities;

24.  Points out that, since fishing is an activity that exploits a self-renewable resource, the first and principal task of fisheries management is directly or indirectly to control total fishing effort in such a way as to achieve the objective of the 2002 Johannesburg Summit mentioned above;

25.  Urges the Commission to reconsider the present system of total allowable catches (TACs) and quotas as the principal instrument for managing marine resources and its usefulness given the present fishing restrictions;

26.  Urges the Commission to study and propose more open control and supervision systems in respect of fisheries landings, illegal catches and the discarding at sea of by-catches;

27.  Considers the above-mentioned measures to be fundamental for an accurate assessment of the state of fisheries resources by the competent scientific bodies;

28.  Recognises that the existing fisheries management instruments, based on TACs, have a direct impact on catches and an indirect impact on fishing effort; stresses, however, that management of fishing effort is needed to allow this method to work more effectively; urges the Commission to study the various instruments for managing fishery resources, while ensuring that the current instruments are not altered until an alternative becomes available that will guarantee the more appropriate exploitation of fishery resources;

29.  Stresses that the distribution of TACs by fleets and fishing gear, respecting the principle of relative stability, falls within the exclusive competence of each Member State; considers that the distribution of quotas in each Member State should take account of the type of gear (trawl and others) and the respective catches;

30.  Expresses its deep concern at the possibility of any change being made to the CFP that promotes the concentration of fishing activity, in particular as regards the right of access to resources;

31.  Points out that the reduction and concentration of quotas among a limited number of operators does not necessarily mean a reduction in fishing effort, but merely the concentration of fishery resource exploitation;

32.  Applauds the positive discrimination regarding aid to renovate the fleet in some outermost regions of the EU and considers it fundamental that this aid be maintained beyond the end of the present financial framework 2007-2013 so that it is possible to ensure, even thereafter, a form of fishing which is sustainable and environmentally-friendly;

33.  Considers it vital to maintain the access derogation to the zone falling within territorial waters at at least 12 miles, as a way of fostering the sustainability of coastal marine ecosystems, traditional fishing activities and the survival of fishing communities; calls for this derogation to be permanent in nature;

34.  Calls for the area corresponding to the EEZs of the outermost regions to be considered an 'exclusive access zone' on a permanent basis in order to guarantee the sustainability of marine ecosystems, fishing activity and local fishing communities;

35.  Considers it insufficient to measure fishing effort in a uniform way, without taking account of the diversity of fleets and gear; considers that controlling fishing effort should take account of the various species, the various fishing gear and the assessed impact of catches on stocks of each species;

36.  Considers that the emphasis placed on fishing effort based on kw/day is useful only in the case of trawl fishing but is not appropriate to other gear;

37.  Considers that area restrictions (closed or protected areas, such as protected marine areas) require a multidisciplinary scientific basis to support them, in particular as regards the influence of the various activities and factors which have a real impact on ecosystems and as regards the real benefits offered by their creation, which should include specific in-depth studies on their environmental and socio-economic impact on fishing communities;

38.  Notes that restrictions on fishing capacity have mainly been brought about by promoting the scrapping of vessels but have not been applied uniformly in the various Member States; stresses, consequently, that matching the various national fleets to fishery resources must take account of the reduction in fishing effort already brought about;

39.  Considers that a policy that encourages the indiscriminate scrapping of vessels without taking account of the specific features of fleets, fishery resources and needs as regards consumption in each Member State, and the socio-economic impact, is inappropriate and unjustified;

40.  Considers, therefore, that one of the first tasks to be carried out in the area of fisheries management is to assess scientifically whether there are any over-large fleets and over-exploited resources, and which they are, so that suitable specific measures can be adopted;

41.  Notes that the precautionary approach to fisheries management is defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002 as 'the absence of adequate scientific information should not be used as a reason for postponing or failing to take management measures to conserve target species, associated or dependent species and non-target species and their environment';

42.  Reaffirms the importance of monitoring fisheries management, which falls within the competence of the Member States;

43.  Calls for support for the installation and modernisation of Member States' own means of surveillance, monitoring and control of their EEZs, taking account of the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, the stepping-up of maritime safety and the conservation of marine ecosystems;

44.  Considers it essential to apply the measures already taken against IUU fishing and calls on the Member States to strengthen their control mechanisms;

45.  Urges the Commission to propose measures making imported fishery products placed on the internal market subject to the same requirements as those applying to fishery products in the various Member States;

46.  Reiterates the need constantly to improve fishing gear in order to perfect its selectivity, which will be an important factor in reducing by-catches and their impact on the environment; calls on the Commission to develop specific policy instruments to encourage fishermen to take all available measures to reduce their by-catches as far as possible;

47.  Considers that the introduction of industrial trawl gear led to an increase in fishing mortality which made it necessary to introduce separate controls on this gear, for example by maintaining the restrictions imposed on fishing areas (proximity to or distance from the coast);

48.  Urges the Commission to promote more environmentally sound fishing practices through the use of more selective fishing techniques which are able to reduce by-catches and fuel consumption during fishing periods;

49.  Calls on the Commission to speed up the process of the eco-certification of fish as much as possible, in order to promote cleaner and more environmentally-friendly fisheries;

50.  Stresses that involving the fishing industry in the shaping, application and assessment of the various measures under the CFP is vital for the adoption of more appropriate and effective policies;

51.  Points out that Regional Advisory Councils can play an important role in the CFP decision-making process, since they involve fishermen and researchers responsible for the assessment of fishery resources; considers that their operation should be properly funded;

52.  Stresses that, within the framework of regional policy and good neighbourhood policy, cooperation with non-Community fleets exploiting shared stocks should be increased so as to ensure the viability of such stocks;

53.  Stresses the need to support groups of fishermen and professional organisations that are prepared to share responsibility for the application of the CFP (co-management);

54.  Urges greater decentralisation of the CFP, to allow greater involvement of fishermen, their representative organisations and fishing communities in the CFP and fisheries management, while ensuring that minimum standards are to be met that are consistent and coherent across the Community;

55.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission and the parliaments of the Member States.

(1) OJ L 358, 31.12.2002, p. 59.
(2) Directive 2008/56/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 June 2008 establishing a framework for community action in the field of marine environmental policy (Marine Strategy Framework Directive) (OJ L 164, 25.6.2008, p. 19).

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