Common Fisheries Policy

Common Fisheries Policy in Europe

EU Common Policies: Common Fisheries Policy (CFP): an Overview

The EU fishing fleet is the fourth largest in the world. The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has applied to this fleet since 1983, and has provided the Community with a judicial system and a range of management instruments for running the sector. The fisheries policy is based on four principles:

regulation of fish stock exploitation, maintenance and management;
regulation of the organisation of fish and fish-based product markets;
rules governing the structural problems of fisheries;
international relations.

The fisheries policy strongly advocates conservation and improvement of fish stocks exploited by the fleets. In order to protect and manage these stocks in Community waters, the CFP introduced an instrument to limit catches by means of a quota system for the Member States concerned. Each year, the Council establishes quotas for a broad group of species which are subject to commercial fishing.

The Agriculture and Fisheries Council brings together the ministers for agriculture and fisheries in a bid to formulate a common policy and take and implement decisions in these two fields. The ministers for agriculture meet once a month on average to debate common policy, markets and prices, rural development, food safety and animal health. The ministers for fisheries discuss the Common Fisheries Policy. See also the Common Agricultural Policy.

Introduction to Common Fisheries Policy

The other major common policy is the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) of 1982. It imposed controls on access to fish stocks and attempted to preserve the fisheries. The CFP set up a structure of price and compensation systems modeled on the CAP. The policy successfully limited overfishing in EU waters. However, national fishing industries have objected to its system of fixing prices and allocating to each country strict quotas on the amount of each fish species that can be caught. Controversy over the CFP has been persistent, with frequent disputes between the EU and national fishing industries and among member states.” (1)

Definition of Common Fisheries Policy

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Common Fisheries Policy : (CFP)

A fishing policy agreed between members of the European Community in 1983. It lays down annual catch limits (*quotas) for each state for major species of fish, a 12-mile exclusive fishing zone for each state, and an equal-access zone of 200 nautical miles from its coast, within which any member state is allowed to fish. There are some exceptions to these regulations. The CFP is handled by the European Commission’s Fisheries Directorate General. It was reviewed in 1992 and is subject to a further review in 2002.

Policy areas of the Common Fisheries Policy

Access and conservation

• EU 200-mile zone for all EU fishermen
• 12-mile limit on own shores for member states
• All conservation levels to be agreed at the EU level
• National quotas established to protect fish stocks – these are known as Total Allowable Catches (TACs)

Market management

This covers:
• Price system
• Marketing arrangements
• External trade policy

Structural measures

Funding is available from the EU budget for:
• Processing and marketing development projects
• Conversion and modernisation schemes
• Redeployment

External negotiations

• Negotiations with non-EU states on fishing, and in particular on access to EU waters

Regulation (EU) 1379/2013 on the Common Organisation of the Markets of Fishery and Aquaculture Products (CMO)

On 11 December 2013, the European Parliament and the Council adopted the above-mentioned Regulation (“CMO regulation”). It entered into force on 1 January 2014 (except the provisions on consumer information, which apply since 13 December 2014).
The regulation, in essence:

  • substantially changes EU funding in this field, moving from the previous 6 mechanisms to a single mechanism – storage aid – which is itself due to disappear on 1 January 2019 (see Commission implementing regulation (EU) No 1419/2013).
  • provides for a new tool – production & marketing plans (see Commission implementing regulation (EU) No 1418/2013) – mandatory since 1 January 2014. (2)
  • improves consumer information requirements, to help consumers make informed choices. (3)

Description of Common Fisheries Policy (CFP)

The Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union describes common fisheries policy (cfp) in the following terms: [1] The saga of the CFP is an unhappy episode in the EU’s history, and particularly in its relations with the UK. In the late 1960s Britain, Norway, Ireland and Denmark were negotiating entry into the Common Market. The four countries were rich in fish, which the existing members of the Community (‘the Six’) coveted. Having no legal justification for their ambitions the Six hastily created the CFP, under which all member states would have equal access to Community fishing grounds, which would become a ‘common resource’. Anxious to secure the prize of membership of the Community, the British prime minister, Edward Heath, gave way. Despite assuring the public that the CFPwas unacceptable, the government contented itself with a ten-year ‘derogation’, an interim arrangement which temporarily protected coastal fishing (see more in this European encyclopedia). The UKsigned its Treaty of Accession in 1972. The same year, Norway voted against joining the Community, partly because of its rejection of the CFP.

The UK’s derogation, which was also accorded to the other applicant countries, allowed an exclusion zone of six (in some places twelve) miles. In 1976 the British government passed an Act of Parliament raising its limits to 200 miles. The Act accorded with international law and practice, but when tested in the courts it proved subordinate to Community law, which gave the EC itself the right to a 200-mile limit (a right which it exercised in 1977) but did not recognise exclusivity as between individual member state fleets outside the coastal zone (see more in this European encyclopedia). Meanwhile, Canada, Iceland and Norway had also extended their limits to 200 miles, barring Community vessels from many of their habitual fishing grounds and driving them into other waters.

At the end of 1982 the derogations expired. Revised arrangements were proposed for a further 20-year period, granting the UK access to just over one-third of the Community’s fish, compared with its contribution of some two-thirds of the Community’s total resources. In January 1983 a Danish skipper was fined for operating inside the UK’s 12-mile limit. The European Court overruled his conviction on the grounds that at the time no derogation had been in force and he had therefore been entitled to equal access. This judgment exposed the weakness of the UK’s negotiating position: the alternative to losing half of its natural fishing rights was to lose them all. For Ireland, too, the message was clear.

In 1986 Spain and Portugal joined the EC, bringing with them limited fish resources but adding two-thirds to the Community’s combined fleets. To reduce disruption and over-fishing, the EC entered into fishing agreements with some 30 maritime countries and put in place interim arrangements for national quotas and fleet reduction; meanwhile, the new member states’ full integration into the CFP would be delayed for 16 years. Spanish owners responded by flying under the British flag, or ‘quota-hopping’, a practice banned by a 1988 Act of Parliament but reinstated when the European Court again overruled the English courts.

In 1994 Spain and Portugal gained accelerated integration into the CFP by threatening otherwise to veto the enlargement of the EU by the accession of four additional member states (ironically, a referendum in Norway, one of the successful applicants, rejected membership for the second time, after a campaign which again featured the need to protect the Norwegian fishing industry). There followed a bitter dispute and an uneasy compromise over Spain’s access to Irish and British waters in the Irish Sea. As surplus capacity was forcibly scrapped and their coastal village communities declined, British fishermen were so dismayed that they even failed to take advantage of the modest EU funds available for decommissioning and modernisation. Their worst suspicions seemed to them confirmed by Canadian allegations of illegal Spanish fishing in the North Atlantic.

The new CFP regime introduced in 1983 was built on the concept of balanced conservation and exploitation through ‘Total Allowable Catches’ (TACs) – supposedly scientifically designed quotas on a species-by-species basis. These TACs are then divided between member states in acrimonious annual bargaining rounds and are enforced by national supervision and by specified mesh sizes to allow young fish to escape (see more in this European encyclopedia). Amid a welter of mutual accusations it was hard to establish the truth, but Spanish compliance was said to have been lax, resulting in indiscriminate fishing and heavy dumping of unwanted by-catches. The resultant grave environmental damage and depletion of stocks undermined the EU’s argument that ‘European-level action’ would inevitably be more effective than national controls. Nor could it be said that the CFP had done anything to ease the divisiveness of rivalries between fleets. If anything, the reverse was the case.

When the current CFP derogations expire in 2002, the Mediterranean states command enough votes to block any renegotiation which goes against their interests. Moreover, the next stage of the CFP, embodied in the 1995 Accession Treaties of Austria, Finland and Sweden, already envisages the Commission controlling all aspects of Community fishing via permits. A campaign to withdraw from the CFP has attracted considerable popular sympathy in the UK but would put at risk British membership of the EU, since it would mean reneging on fundamental Treaty obligations – a step that no British government would contemplate.

The verdict on the CFP, therefore, is that it has evolved into a complex and incoherent system which deters Norway and Iceland from joining the EU, has failed to achieve conservation and is particularly disadvantageous to the UK. Nevertheless, the problems are real. Fish are too mobile to be easily classified as a national resource; and consumer demand has begun consistently to outstrip supply. Controls at sea are notoriously difficult to police (see more in this European encyclopedia). Add to these problems the bureaucratic centralist ambitions of the Commission and a multitude of conflicting national interests, and it is clear that in the medium term no equitable solution is likely to be found. (See also Factortame.)

Common Fisheries Policy and the European Union


See Also

  • CFP


Notas y References

  1. Based on the book “A Concise Encyclopedia of the European Union from Aachen to Zollverein”, by Rodney Leach (Profile Books; London)

See Also


Notes and References

  1. Information about Common Fisheries Policy in the Encarta Online Encyclopedia
  2. These plans will help professional organisations with the day-to-day implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy’s reform goals and allow them to manage their activities in a business-like and market-oriented manner.
  3. These provisions, which complement regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on food information for consumers (“the FIC regulation”), apply since 13 December 2014. They do not change any of the terms of regulation 1169/2011.

See Also

Fishery limits

Guide to Common Fisheries Policy

More Topics about the European Union

European Economic Area, European Union, European Union History (including European Union Early Cooperation, Benelux Customs Union, European Coal and Steel Community, European Economic Community, European Community, Expansion of the EC, Single European Act, Creation of the European Union, Treaty on European Union, Amsterdam Treaty, Treaty of Nice, Treaty of Lisbon, Monetary Union and EU Growing Accountability), EU Pillar System, EU Major Bodies Structure, European Commission, Council of the European Union, European Parliament, European Court of Justice, Court of Auditors, European Central Bank, Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, European Union Policies, Common Agricultural Policy, Common Fisheries Policy,

EU Economic Differences, European Regional Development Fund, European Social Fund, Cohesion Fund, European Investment Bank, European Monetary System, Economic and Monetary Union, EU International Relations, EU Expansion,

EU and Non-European Nations and European Union Future.

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