EU FISHERIES POLICY
ENVIRONMENTALLY and POLITICALLY FLAWED
Independent Green Voice endorses the research and policy options promoted by Dr Richard North in his in-depth paper entitled Policy Options for Commercial Fisheries Management in UK Waters which can be found here and which we summarise below.
As Dr North's 3,800 word paper explains:
There is now increasing evidence that the core regime applied by the CFP is itself flawed, in terms of its appreciation of fish biology, the quality and treatment of data, and the treatment of fishermen.
So fundamental are these flaws that they are beyond reform. Therefore, the only hope of restoring British fishing grounds to commercial viability in the interests of all fishermen lies in returning control to the UK governments, and introducing entirely new management regimes.
Dr North examines in depth the reasons why the CFP is fundamentally flawed and sets out the options for a more rational policy. He concludes:
Reviewing the parameters for an effective fisheries management system, it seems clear that it must embody the following characteristics:
- It must be designed for the specific fishery and be sufficiently flexible to account for the cultural and economic needs of the fishermen involved, and the characteristics of the fish stocks to be exploited.
- The fishery management must have absolute control of the fishing capacity, and be able to restrict the number and type of vessels permitted to fish.
- Overall fishing capacity should be controlled with regard to the levels of exploitable fish stocks.
- There should be a reasonably accurate assessment of fish stocks, which can only be determined with the active support of fishermen, who will only supply accurate data if they trust the management system.
- TAC [total allocated catch] systems are unworkable - fishing effort should be limited by use of 'input controls' such as 'days at sea', applied on an equitable basis to give all fishermen fair access to exploitable stocks.
- Fishing effort should be attuned to accord with population dynamics of fish stocks.
Assessing the current policy applying to UK waters, ie. the CFP, it is clear that the nature of the CFP, embodying the treaty requirement for 'equal access', cannot and does not afford fisheries management the facility to control fishing capacity, and nor is fishing capacity attuned to the level of fish stocks available. Nor, as a 'common' policy, can it allow for the flexibility required of an effective policy.
Then, inherent in the system adopted under the CFP -- the TAC/quota system -- is a situation which mitigates against the collection of accurate fish stock data. This is not a problem that can be solved, as it is an inherent failing of the system.
As to 'days at sea' limitations, these have been proposed by British governments, but the systems proposed have always been in addition to quota system, and were not to be applied to fishing fleets from other member states, thus disadvantaging British fishermen. Within the current CFP framework, 'days at sea' provisions cannot be equitable.
Finally, as to the biological principles applied to the CFP, it is the case that, despite its obvious and transparent failures, the EU is committed to following ICES advice. Within that framework, it would not be possible to attune fishing effort to population dynamics in a realistic way.
On this basis, it is not difficult to draw the conclusion that the CFP is flawed and that, if an effective fisheries management regime is to be applied to UK waters, one of two things must happen: either the CFP must be reformed, or Britain must withdraw from the CFP and introduce its own policy, independently of the CFP, along wholly different lines.
It is a matter of political judgment as to whether seeking reform would be a realistic proposition, or whether -- if it were possible -- it could be achieved within a timescale that would be acceptable.
Recent history, however, does not suggest that reform of something as acutely political as the CFP could be achieved, in which case the only realistic alternative is withdrawal from the CFP.