Policy analyst: EU Commission needs to ask the right questions

The EU Commission should take a step towards implementation of an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries by requesting more information from ICES than an estimation of the maximum sustainable yield, writes Baltic Sea Centre Policy Analyst Charles Berkow in a reply to the Commission’s call for evidence on the functioning of the Common Fisheries Policy.

A fundamental problem with the EU Common Fisheries Policy as implemented in the Baltic Sea is the effort to fish at levels corresponding to a narrowly estimated maximum sustainable yield, FMSY, according to Charles Berkow. In practice, EU fisheries decisions are seldom based on the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management or the precautionary approach they are ostensibly based on, at least as these terms are defined in the basic regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Charles Berkow. Photo: Lisa Bergqvist

One step towards implementation of an ecosystem-based approach, and better coherence with the Green Deal and EU environmental policy, would be to request ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) to list relevant factors that are not adequately taken into consideration in the advice underlying today’s decisions on fishing quotas. Example of such factors could be the impact of fishing on other associated commercially fished stock, on sub-populations, on the size-structure of the stock, on other associated species or on sea-floor integrity. ICES should also indicate whether taking each respective factor into account would likely result in a higher or lower total catch than they otherwise recommend. 

 – Failure to take these uncertainties and limitations into account, together with recurring questionable short-term socio-economic considerations, has led to serious negative socio-economic impacts in the medium term. This has been exacerbated by a failed fleet policy that does not take regional considerations or account of technological creep, and by massive subsidies in the form of exemptions from fuel taxes, adds Charles Berkow.

Read the whole reply here.