Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Struan Stevenson: Fisheries Lecture at SAMS

On 21st February 2013 Struan Stevenson MEP gave a lecture at SAMS on ‘The Future of European Fisheries’. Struan is the Senior Vice President of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee and the focus of the talk was the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform.

Much of the lecture focused upon the themes of regionalisation, discards and multi-annual plans (MAPs), significant areas of reform under the revised CFP. As the fishing industry has been effectively micro-managed from Brussels over the past 30 years, since the introduction of the CFP, one of the key amendments relates to devolving day-to-day management back to Member States (regionalisation). It was suggested that the management cascade could go all the way down to Producer Organisation level. However, in cases of non-compliance, Brussels would be able to claw back control: a good incentive? As mentioned in a previous post, a key area for reform is the three-step phasing out of discards starting with pelagic species in 2014, moving to whitefish in 2015 and all other marketable species in 2016. The need for CCTV to ensure compliance with the new discards policy was mentioned, although this appears to be an area of some dissention between Member States. The introduction of CCTV seems to be causing particular angst to those Member States formerly behind the Iron Curtain such as Poland. Struan also discussed the need for MAPs which would make it easier for fishers to borrow from banks (by being able to provide the banks with catch allowances projected several years into the future) and which would give stability to the sector. However, there is currently an inter-institutional dispute ongoing between Parliament, Council and the Commission relating to whether Parliament should have a say in the drawing up of MAPs. This dispute is now a case pending before the European Court of Justice and it is unclear when a ruling will be delivered.

Perhaps one of the most interesting points to arise from the evening related to the reform of the Common Organisation of the Market (COM) and the need to improve the market position of EU fisheries production. Struan highlighted the importance of changing people’s perceptions of what is a desirable fish to consume, and promoting different fish species. One way in which this could happen, which Struan is pushing for, would be through the introduction of an ‘EU Ecolabel’ for fisheries highlighting the high standards which govern fish production in the EU. It is envisaged that the Marine Stewardship Council would be subcontracted to administer the EU Ecolabel application process, drawing on the MSC’s experience and expertise in the ecolabelling market. Could this be the answer?

To find out more about Struan’s work on fishing in the European Parliament see: http://www.struanstevenson.com/special-interests/fishing/

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