Reply to EU Commission: Fisheries policy needs to broaden its perspective

A key cause of the disastrous development of fishing stocks in the Baltic Sea is an over-emphasis on trying to achieve a narrowly defined Maximum Sustainable Yield for single stocks. In reply to a consultation from the EU Commission, the Baltic Sea Centre policy analyst Charles Berkow argues that the Commission should base its decisions on more comprehensive information.

The Commission asked for comments on its communication on the state of play of the Common Fisheries Policy included in the objectives of the EU Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, is to implement an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management so as to ensure that negative impacts of fishing activities on the marine ecosystem are minimised and avoid the degradation of the environment. In particular, fisheries policy should contribute to achieving the objective of Good Environmental Status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, MSFD. 

However, when fishing quotas are set by the EU ministers, little or no consideration is taken to environmental limitations or interrelationships, writes the Baltic Sea Centre in its response to the consultation. The reason for this is that such factors are not included in the advice given by International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, ICES.

 – Important information is not considered, or not included, or not highlighted in the scientific advice used as the basis for decision-making, comments Charles Berkow, Policy Analyst at the Baltic Sea Centre.

The impact of fishing the stock in question on other associated commercially fished stock, on other associated species or on sea-floor integrity and if the condition of the stock seems to be improving or declining are examples of information that the Commission should consider requesting ICES to provide, in a transparent and clear manner. 

 – At the very least, the Commission should request that ICES clearly lists the relevant factors that are not adequately reflected in its headline advice. Also, ICES should be asked to assess if recommended quotas would be higher or lower if a particular factor had been taken into account, says Charles Berkow.

The Baltic Sea Centre also stresses that capacity-enhancing subsidies counteract efforts to come to terms with today’s overcapacity in fisheries.

 – Exemptions from fuel taxes are a particularly harmful subsidy that contributes to overcapacity and excess fishing pressure, damages the marine environment and increase climate-heating emissions. The fishing sector should pay the same price for climate emissions as other sectors.

Read the whole consultation reply here.