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Towards more sustainable fisheries? How to get incentives right.

A fisheries reform package with the aim of a more sustainable Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), is now under discussion in the EU Parliament and the Council of Ministers. It includes both an overhaul of the CFP Basic Regulation and the European Fund for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs (EMFF). The reformed Basic Regulation is planned to enter into force in 2013 and the new EMFF as of 2014.

Debate in the European ParlimentOn April 25 the Swedish Institute for the Marine Environment, together with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, hosted a panel discussion at the European Parliament in Brussels on the use of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ incentives for sustainable fisheries. The panel consisted of academics, fishermen, members of the European parliament and an NGO representative (see link to invitation). The main policy instruments discussed by the panel included the use of right based management (RBM) approaches in the form of the TFCs (transferable fishing concessions) and the use of subsidies (economic support to the fishing industry). The aim was not to reach consensus but rather to share knowledge and ideas amongst groups with different backgrounds, experiences and opinions.

The CFP reform aims at reducing the present overcapacity in the fishing fleet and introducing incentives for the individual fisher to invest in more rewarding exploitation patterns, thereby securing ecologically sustainable stocks and stop the erosion of the common fish stocks. However, the debate also focused very much on its economic and social side effects of capitalisation of the fishing rights.

As pointed out by several of the environmental economists, "privatisation" of natural resources by using RMB is a well-documented mechanism to handle over harvesting of a resource. The introduction of TFC would thus reduce the overcapacity of the fishing fleet. It was however stressed the need to be careful with the details when designing such systems, in order to reduce the problem of excessive concentration of concessions to a small group of individuals. Other panellists opposed a privatisation of the sea and its resources, today belonging to the public. Giving away “the right to fish on certain stocks” to specific individuals might have unwanted social effects, such as the concentration of boats and fishing rights to certain areas and to a smaller group of individuals. “Slipper skippers” (persons renting out their concessions for a high price and just sitting in the slippers waiting for the income – while the fishermen are doing the hard work) was taken as an example of another negative social effect. Comparing with other sectors other panellists asked why fish should be treated differently from other resources.

Unemployment caused by a reduced and concentrated fishing fleet and effects on local culture was used as an argument against the introduction of TFCs and for the need of safeguards – for example by allocating a part of the catch share for coastal fisheries. An example from the Swedish west coast, where also small scale fishermen are included in an RBM system was presented as to how such effects could be avoided. A suggestion discussed to handle negative social effects of TFC was to skip the “T” in the acronym, and the transferability of the concessions.

Several speakers argued for the need to reduce or even abandon subsidies as it leads to maintaining overcapacity in the fishing fleet, and will counteract the introduction of TFC and a stricter regulation on discards. Also the need of not just focusing on TFCs, but also combining this reform with regulations on protected areas, discards, and fishing gears etc. were brought up.

The discussion is available here as a sound file, about 90 minutes:

In English

In Spanish

Get the documents:

COM(2011) 425 - Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the common fisheries policy (Basic regulation)
EUR-Lex – Download PDF

COM(2011) 804 – Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
EUR-Lex – Download PDF


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Page Manager: Tina Johansen|Last update: 4/27/2012

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