Common Fisheries Policy
The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)
Management of EU fisheries
What is the Common Fisheries Policy?
The CFP is a set of rules for managing European fishing fleets and for conserving fish stocks. Designed to manage a common resource, it gives all European fishing fleets equal access to EU waters and fishing grounds and allows fishermen to compete fairly.
Stocks may be renewable, but they are finite. Some of these fishing stocks, however, are being overfished. As a result, EU countries have taken action to ensure the European fishing industry is sustainable and does not threaten the fish population size and productivity over the long term.
The CFP was first introduced in the 1970s and went through successive updates, the most recent of which took effect on 1 January 2014.
What are the aims of the Common Fisheries Policy?
The CFP aims to ensure that fishing and aquaculture are environmentally, economically and socially sustainable and that they provide a source of healthy food for EU citizens. Its goal is to foster a dynamic fishing industry and ensure a fair standard of living for fishing communities.
Although it is important to maximise catches, there must be limits. We need to make sure that fishing practices do not harm the ability of fish populations to reproduce. The current policy stipulates that between 2015 and 2020 catch limits should be set that are sustainable and maintain fish stocks in the long term.
To this day, the impact of fishing on the fragile marine environment is not fully understood. For this reason, the CFP adopts a cautious approach which recognises the impact of human activity on all components of the ecosystem. It seeks to make fishing fleets more selective in what they catch, and to phase out the practice of discarding unwanted fish.
The reform also changes the way in which the CFP is managed, giving EU countries greater control at national and regional level.
The CFP has 4 main policy areas:
Fishermen catch fish from fish stocks, which generally have a high, but not unlimited, reproductive capacity. If fishing is not controlled, stocks may collapse or fishing may cease to be economically viable. It is in everyone’s interest to have a fisheries management system in place to
safeguard stock reproduction for high long-term yield
lay the foundations for a profitable industry
share out fishing opportunities fairly, and
conserve marine resources
The principal aim of fisheries management under the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to ensure high long-term fishing yields for all stocks by 2015 where possible, and at the latest by 2020. This is referred to as maximum sustainable yield. Another increasingly important aim is to reduce unwanted catches and wasteful practices to the minimum or avoid them altogether, through the gradual introduction of a landing obligation. Lastly, the new CFP has overhauled its rules and management structure, with regionalisation and more extensive stakeholder consultation.
Fisheries management can take the form of input control, output control, or a combination of both. Input controls include:
rules on access to waters – to control which vessels have access to which waters and areas
fishing effort controls – to limit fishing capacity and vessel usage
technical measures – to regulate gear usage and where and when fishermen can fish
Output controls mainly consist of limiting the amount of fish from a particular fishery, in particular through total allowable catches (see TACs and quotas).
The Common Fisheries Policy increasingly has recourse to multi-annual plans which often combine different management tools.
Fisheries management is based on data and scientific advice, and control measures to ensure that rules are applied fairly to and complied with by all fishermen.
Fishing outside the EU
More than a quarter of the fish caught by European fishing boats are actually taken outside EU waters. Around 8 % of EU catches (2004-06) are made under fishing agreements with countries outside the EU, while another 20 % are taken on the high seas, mainly in regions under the care of regional fisheries management organisations.
As a major fishing power, and the largest single market for fisheries products in the world, the EU also plays an important role in promoting better governance through a number of international organisations. This involves developing and implementing policy on fisheries management and – more generally – the Law of the Sea. The EU works closely with its partners from around the globe through the United Nations system, including the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), as well as in other bodies, such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Market and trade policy
The Common Organisation of the Markets, the EU policy for managing the market in fishery and aquaculture products, is one of the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The Common Organisation of the Markets strengthens the role of the actors on the ground: producers are responsible for ensuring the sustainable exploitation of natural resources and equipped with instrument to better market their products. Consumers receive more and better information on the products sold on the EU market, which, regardless of their origin, must comply with the same rules. Thanks to dedicated tools, it is now possible to have a better understanding of how the EU market functions.
Today, the Common Organisation of the Markets has come a long way from its beginnings and is a flexible instrument that ensures the environmental sustainability and economic viability of the market for fishery and aquaculture products. The five main areas covered by the scheme are:
Organisation of the Sector Producer organisations are the key players in the sector. Through their production and marketing plans, they deliver the EU Common Fishery policy.
To facilitate application of the rules established by the Common Organisation of the Markets for the recognition of producer organisations and other professional organisations as well as for the extension of their rules to non-members, the European Commission has prepared a non-binding guidance document pdf – 2 MB [2 MB] .
Marketing standards Common marketing standards lay down uniform characteristics for fishery products sold in the EU, whatever their origin. They are applied in accordance with conservation measures and help to ensure a transparent internal market that supplies high-quality products.
Consumer information Rules on the consumer information establish what information must be provided to the consumer or mass caterer who buys fishery and aquaculture products. They allow consumers to make informed purchasing choices.
Competition rules The Common Organisation of the Markets is subject to competition rules. Given the specificities of this scheme, exceptions to the application of these rules exist to ensure the functioning of the policy and the achievement of EU objectives.
Market intelligence The Commission has set up the European Market Observatory for Fishery and Aquaculture Products to contribute to market transparency and efficiency.
Funding of the policy
The CFP also includes rules on aquaculture and stakeholder involvement