The Common Fisheries Policy

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Boat Moored at Cape Clear (Image Credit: Breda Moriarty)

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) deals with the management of European fishing fleets, the conservation of fish stocks, and implements aquaculture control measures. Member states of the EU have equal access to all European waters to generate fair competition under this policy first introduced in the 1970s. Updated in 2014, the policy introduced several new limitations, such as the discard ban, and is comprised of four separate but interlinking components. These four areas are:

Fisheries Management

A  fisheries management plan is in place and is applicable to EU member states as a means of ensuring high long-term fishing yields for all stocks. This management system considers long term conservation of finite resources, while also being concerned with the sustainability and profitability of the industry for the various stakeholders. Another aspect of the policy is that of the discard ban. This restriction on commercial fishing was added to the new Common Fisheries Policy in 2014, and forces fishermen to land every individual fish caught as part of their total allowable catch. It is also referred to as  a ‘landing obligation’.

Fisheries management is based on availability of accurate, reliable raw data, and scientific advice from scientific advisory boards such as:

International Policy

This component of the CFP refers to the trade rules established between non-EU and Member States. The EU is the largest single market and a net importer of fish products and therefore plays a key role in promoting better governance (www1). This is achieved through the creation and implementation of policies and legislation for the management of marine resources, in consultation with international partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (www2).

Market and Trade Policy

This component refers to ‘The Common Organisation of the Markets’ which insures marketing standards to products sold in the EU market regardless of origin. In this way producers are responsible for sustainable exploitation of finite resources and the marketing of their product. By implementing common marketing standards to producers within member states,  consumers receive more transparent information about the products they are purchasing. The information provided to the consumer is regulated by Consumer Information Rules with new rules becoming applicable on 13 December 2014.

Under these  rules and regulations, fish, molluscs, crustaceans and algae, products must display the following information (EC, 2014, pp.3-5):

  • The commercial designation and scientific name of the species
  • The production designation indicating whether the product is freshwater, farmed, or mixed
  • The catch area, country and body of origin, and country of production
  • Fishing gear utilised (i.e. seines, trawls, gillnets etc.)
  • Whether the product has been defrosted
  • The date of minimum duability (also referred to as the ‘best before date’)
  • Allergens

To learn more about the information provided to consumers, see this CFP information sheet: Tools for the World’s Largest Seafood Market.

Funding of the Policy

This component sets minimum prices for seafood products and finances the buying up of unused fish.

  • European Fisheries Fund (2007 – 2013)

The European fisheries Fund, provided funding to fishing industry and coastal communities to ‘help them adapt to changing conditions in the sector and become economically resilient and ecologically sustainable’ (www3). To facilitate this, 4.3 billion euro was made available to all sectors within the fishing industry (inland and sea fishing, aquaculture etc).

  • European and Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) (2014 – 2020)

This is one of five European Structural and Investment funds which seeks to promote jobs based recovery in Europe by:

  • “helping fishermen in the transition to sustainable fishing
  • supporting coastal communities in diversifying their economies
  • financing projects that create new jobs and improve quality of life along European coasts
  • making it easier for applicants to access financing.”

The EMFF in particular also provides investment support to small scale coastal fishermen by facilitating investment in training, conservation and stock rebuilding, and by investing in equipment such as first own fishing boats, engines and on board equipment.

Other aspects of the Common Fisheries Policy include, but are not limited to: implementation of quotas and total allowable catches, fishing controls such as closures and minimum landing sizes, funding for the upgrading of vessels, gear, and processing methods. The policy also provides control and management frameworks to recreational fishers, and to the sustainability and low environmental impact of commercial fisheries and aquaculture facilities. These are just a few examples of what the policy entails, the entirety of which is laid out in EU Regulation No. 1380/2013 (2013).


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