Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

The Common Fisheries Policy will be radically reformed by the new basic regulation which came into force on 1st January 2014.

The agreement on this comprehensive reform process was preceded by lengthy and difficult negotiations between the European Parliament and the Council. After the Council had agreed, the European Parliament also adopted the compromise reached in May 2013 with a large majority on 10 December 2013.

Dramatic change

The reform means a radical change in European fisheries policy, something which the Federal Government had endorsed for a long time. Sustainability will now be the most important principle in the fisheries sector. In future, significantly stiffer measures will be laid down to replenish fish stocks. Given the over-exploitation of the seas, European fisheries policy is committed to modern methods of fisheries management.

During the next few years the multi-annual management plans are to be extended to include as many stocks of commercially used fish as possible, and these stocks are to be managed according to the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY); by 2020 at the latest, this is to apply to all fish stocks. This principle will ensure the sustainable use of stocks and provide the basis for an economically viable fishing sector.

The Member States with overcapacity in fishing fleets will also be held more accountable in the future. Important decisions have thus been taken towards facilitating a speedy recovery of fish stocks. Added to this are new provisions on regionalisation which assign a stronger role and more responsibility to the EU member states in developing the Common Fisheries Policy.

Introducing discard bans

An important element of the reform plans is the introduction of discard bans and landing requirements. These have been in place since 1 January 2015 for all fishing activities for pelagic species such as herring, mackerel and sprat and for all fisheries in the Baltic Sea. On 1 January 2016 the gradual introduction of the discard ban began for demersal fishing for fish like cod, saithe and haddock. By 2019 at the latest this will apply to all fisheries for regulated species.

The discard ban stipulates that undersized fish from the target species and by-catches of other species will have to be landed and may only be discarded at sea in certain exceptional cases that are strictly defined.

Current regulations of the EU fisheries policy result in by-catches of unwanted or undersized fish being thrown back overboard. Valuable marine resources are wasted in an unacceptable way by these discards because very few fish species can survive being discarded. This means that by-catches of young fish, endangered species or over-exploited stocks are particularly problematic.

Against this background, the federal government has long advocated a fundamental reorientation of the EU fisheries policy in this area and the introduction of discard bans and landing requirements.

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