Concerns before European Parliament plenary vote on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)

On October 14-15, representatives from environmental NGOs, students and a Swedish commercial fisherman met in Brussels to do lobby work related to the European Parliament (EP) plenary vote (on October 23) on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). The lobbying event was organised by Pew Environment Group and the Swedish NGO, the Fisheries Secretariat (FISH).

On the 15 th the participants were divided after nationality and in total almost 20 meetings with MEPs or their assistants held. Aside of discussions, the MEPs were invited to a symbolic vote where they had to choose between “MORE FISH” or “MORE BOATS”. Generally, the MEPs voted for “more fish” and understood our concerns. Hopefully, they are going to vote in a favourable way during the European Parliament (EP) plenary on October 23. This will be checked and monitored by NGOs.

For now, we are concerned by several proposals and measures.

First, the French rapporteur in the EP Fisheries Committee (PECH), Mr Cadec (PPE), has managed to include detrimental amendments and measures to the EC proposal. Mr Cadec’s proposals include subsidises to construct new vessels to increase and modernise the overall capacity of EU fisheries (e.g. subsidies to new engines). CCB and other organisations advocated against this since the reintroduction of a subsidy to build new vessels has been proven to contribute to overfishing and was phased out by the 2002 CFP reform. Furthermore, reintroducing this subsidy would contradict the EU’s Rio +20 commitments and undermine its position in the WTO negotiations. Aid for vessel construction has maintained or even increased overfishing and there is no evidence that this type of subsidy leads to greater socio-economic or environmental benefits. Often this only leads to that the fishermen become encumbered with debts, since they do the majority of the big investment themselves, and are forced to fish even harder on fish stocks that are in bad state – which naturally risk to lead to illegal fishing etc.

There is an urge for increasing funding to enhance control, enforce measures and improve data collection. Of the almost 90 EU stocks that scientific advice on landings are given for, half are considered to be data-poor. In fact there is not enough knowledge of these stocks to enable scientific advice for specifics amount that can be landed by the fisheries on an annual basis – only advice for if catches should increase, decrease or remain at same levels can be given. For other stocks, data are quite often shaky and ought to be of higher quality – especially if multi-species considerations are taken into account in the management plans. Regarding control and enforcement, improvement of these regulatory tools are keys for the planned implementation of discard bans in several EU fisheries.

Furthermore, CCB is concerned by the proposals to limit the participation in Regional Advisory Councils (RACs) to fishermen and producer organizations; according to the proposal only financial support should be directed to RAC participants that make a profit from the utilisation of public resources, serviced by publicly funded research, control and enforcement etc. If such measure is adopted on October 23, the interest of millions of citizens and consumers would be moved aside as many environmental NGOs and other organizations would be financially restricted in their future RAC commitments

Read the joint NGO EMFF briefing sent to MEPs