Common Fisheries Policy

Fish constitute a natural biological resource that is renewable, but not inexhaustible. The fact that fish may be exploited by the fishing fleets of various countries, either because they move between different fishing areas or because in one fishing area fishing is exercised by different countries, means that they constitute a common heritage. For this reason, and also because unregulated fishing activity may lead the stocks even in depletion, the common management of fisheries resources, by adopting and complying with common rules, is vital.

The European Union, in order to achieve the sustainable exploitation of the fisheries resources, as well as the viability of the fisheries sector, has developed the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as a management tool. The CFP includes common rules for all Member States, which cover all aspects related to fishing, from the production to the consumer. Its goals are the protection of the stocks from overfishing, the safeguarding of the fishermen’s income, the regular supply of the consumers and the processing industry in logical prices, as well as the sustainable exploitation of living marine resources from biological, environmental and economic aspects.

In order to ensure sustainable fishing and the protection of the environment, the CFP provides for measures that restrict fishing effort (e.g. size of fishing fleet and fishing time), measures that restrict catch quantities, as well as technical measures (e.g. minimum fish landing sizes). There are also provisions for the adoption of multiannual plans for the recovery and management of stocks, which are usually based on a combination of the above measures. Furthermore, regulations are adopted for the protection of bycatches (turtles, marine mammals), endangered species and sensitive ecosystems.

The CFP is coordinated and guided by the European Commission, with the Directorate – General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries being responsible for its implementation. This does not mean that this policy is solely managed by the Commission from Brussels. The cornerstone of the CFP is the allocation of responsibility to all concerned parties – that is, the European Union’s instruments, the national governments, the fishermen and fishermen associations, for the adoption of decisions, as well as their implementation and enforcement.

The CFP has gone through different stages and reforms, aiming the improvement of its efficiency. It was created in 1982 and reformed in 1992 and 2002, the last based on Council Regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy. The new reform of the CFP is under development and is expected to be finalized within 2012.

  • Europe’s CFP, of which the last reform was established by Regulation (EC) no. 2371/2002, failed to resolve important problems such as overfishing (that is, fishing more fish than can be safely reproduced) and fishing overcapacity (much larger fishing fleets in relation to the available fisheries resources). As a consequence landings are low and most of the European fishing fleets either face many losses or provide only small profit.

    For overcoming these serious problems, the European Commission adopted a proposal of a new basic regulation on the CFP in July 2011. Public consultation from citizens, organisations and administrative services from the EU preceded the formation of the proposal. The discussions on the proposal for a reformed CFP in the European Parliament and in the Council continue, and the new CFP is expected to enter into force in 2013.

    The most important elements included in the proposed reform of the CFP are the following:

    • Fisheries resources will be exploited in sustainable levels, reaching the “Maximum Sustainable Yield” by 2015
    • Discard ban of unwanted catches until 2016
    • Establishment of Transferable Fishing Concessions (TFCs): Compulsory introduction of the system of TFC (with the possibility to exclude vessels smaller than 12m), aiming the reduction of overcapacity. TFCs will concern catch quotas, or effort quotas in the case of the Mediterranean region.
    • Regionalisation – decentralized governing: Member States will decide on actual implementation management measures and will collaborate on a regional level. An alternative mechanism is established, enabling the Commission to take action in cases where the Member States do not reach an agreement or fail to achieve the targets.
    • Support of small scale fishery – social dimension: With the reformed CFP, the Member States’ right to restrict fishing in the zone within 12 nautical miles from the coast is extended until 2022. Small scale fishery may also be excluded from the Transferable Fishing Concession system. The future Fisheries Fund will include measures in favor of the small scale fishery and will assist local economy to adjust in changes.
    • Sustainable promotion of aquaculture.

    The reform of the CFP is a great challenge and the Cyprus Presidency is called upon to push forward the CFP legislative package. The negotiations for the CFP package and its timely adoption are a major objective of the Trio Presidency, Poland – Denmark - Cyprus.  Cyprus Presidency will give high priority to the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and will make every possible effort to progress the negotiations of the CFP Package proposals.  The CFP package is comprised of the proposal for the basic CFP regulation as well as the proposals for the Common Market Organization and the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.