With the halfway point of 2019 quickly approaching, the members of the European Union are working to come to an agreement on a budget for the next iteration of the Common Fisheries Policy. European Union members actively fish in every ocean and represent the largest market for seafood products in the world. This makes it crucial for the European Union to be a global leader when it comes to promoting fisheries that are sustainable. The Common Fisheries Policy was enacted and provides guidelines and standards for fisheries to ensure that member states are following environmentally, socially and economically sustainable fishing practices. Though the current budget ends on December 31st, 2020, in order to avoid transitional delays, an agreement on the next budget for the 2021-2027 iteration must be agreed upon by the end of this calendar year.

The Policy

Fishing Fleet in Ireland
Fishing fleet docked in Greencastle, Inishowen, in Ireland (Source Wikimedia Commons/Patrick Mackie)

The Common Fisheries Policy was put in place to regulate European fishing fleets and to ensure that fishing fleets from every country in the European Union have equal access to its waters and fishing areas. This results in fair competition among fishing fleets. In addition to economic guidelines, the most recent policy update on January 1st, 2014, emphasized the use of sustainable long term catch limits to prevent the depletion of fish populations. Additionally, the current policy includes goals on avoidance of wastefully disposing undesirable catches and the achievement of good environmental status for waters that are regulated by the European Union.

The most recent budget, funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, runs through 2020. This fund assists fishermen that are adjusting to sustainable fishing, expands the economies of coastal communities, supports projects that allow the creation of new jobs and the improvement of life quality in coastal communities, and promotes the development of sustainable aquaculture. Every country in the European Union is allotted part of the total Fund based on the size of their fishing industries and each member creates a plan on how it will use its portion, subject to the Commission’s approval. 

Europe’s Progress

Aquaculture in Saronic Gulf, Greece (Source Flickr/Artur Rydzewski)

Although the Common Fisheries Policy applies to all countries in the European Union, the implementation of this policy is facing many issues in regards to the continuous exploitation of fish stocks. Unfortunately, 45 of the 46 suggested actions that were set forth in the 2014-2020 policy update are currently at risk of not being completed by the end of the budget period. The creation of a system to register fishing vessels is the only action completed by every country in the European Union thus far. 24 of the 46 actions have been completed by some countries, while the remaining actions have not currently been addressed. Because of this lack of completion, it is possible that by the end of 2020 there will be multiple aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy that are not being followed by most countries.

What’s Next

In order to transition from the current budget to one that will cover 2021 to 2027, regulators are working on a new agreement to prevent the aforementioned pause in funding. Along with continuing the support of sustainable fishing practices, this next budget will focus on small-scale fishermen and coastal communities. Unlike before, this policy will increase the funding for surveillance of the bodies of water in order to increase their safety, cleanliness, security, and sustainability. A third of the policy’s funds are expected to be put towards the climate change commitments created by the Paris Agreement. If implemented, Common Fisheries Policy promotes stable conditions for fisheries and bodies of water resulting in more resilient ecosystems and food supply. 

Sources and Further Reading

Evaluating Europe’s Course to Sustainable Fisheries by 2020 – IssueLab

Sustainable Fisheries – WWF

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) – European Union

European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) – European Union

WWF: EU Falling Behind with Sustainable Fisheries Policy Implementation – SeafoodSource

EU Budget: Commission Proposes a New Fund to Invest in the Maritime Economy and Support Fishing Communities – European Union