European Fisheries: Towards Youth and Collective Management

During a vote on October 23, the European Parliament approved draft rules for allocating the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Over €6.5 billion has been earmarked for the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for the 2014-2020 period. From November, the EMFF will enter its last phase, involving a series of negotiations between the European Parliament and fisheries ministers from member states.

The Parliament voted on 641 amendments, and some interesting new developments have emerged regarding the future of the industry. A first positive signal concerns youth employment. Financial aid was approved for new start-ups in the small-scale coastal fishing sector, to help under-35s who already have professional fishing experience. Additionally, under-30s who are interested in artisanal fishing are being encouraged with on-board trainee programs and training activities on sustainable fishing. These will cover, for example, fishing techniques, selective fishing gear and the preservation of biological marine resources. These two important measures appear to offer a gasp of oxygen to the small-scale coastal fishing sector, opening up new employment possibilities.

Another aspect to be highlighted is the significant increase in funds destined for research, which will increase from €358 million to €716 million. This will give the scientific community some respite and perhaps allow scientists to produce more precise and reliable evaluations, not only on the status of fish stocks, but also the overall health of ecosystems. The MSY (Maximum Sustainable Yield) model, which measures stocks and establishes a maximum catch that can be taken from a species’ stock, is on its own not sufficient. The hope is that it can be supported by other tools and measurement criteria, which will truly allow the acquisition of definitive and effective data. It should also be emphasized that the increase in funding for research will help the scientific community take more systematic advantage of the active cooperation of fishers. They can guarantee a more precise and shared elaboration of diagnoses, a starting point for developing local intervention plans.

After all, one of the approved amendments specifically recognizes the importance of participation from all the actors involved in fishing activities and the comanagement of resources. In some areas, comanagement has already shown its effectiveness. The case of the prud’homies in southern France, as well as certain marine protected areas in Galicia and Puglia, can offer valuable lessons, and show how multilateral comanagement committees can provide an understanding of the specificities of the environment, culture and fishing types in individual territories, and allow them to be tackled in a shared way.

The reinstatement of the temporary cessation of fishing to encourage the recovery of stocks can instead be read in two different ways, because much depends on how it will be applied by the member states. If these short-term bans are not put into practice based on in-depth scientific knowledge and if they can be got around as they have been so far in some countries, they will prove an ineffective measure.

One problem that remains on the table regards the allocation of funds for the purchase of new engines for greater energy efficiency, funds that it seems will be allotted to both small vessels and big shipowners. From this point of view, the reform does not seem to have equipped itself with the tools necessary for making appropriate distinctions, and most importantly, the basic assumption of environmental priorities in regards to the issue is missing.

Although there are some less-positive elements , particularly in regards to fish farming—a subject we will deal with in a separate communication—it seems as though the direction set out by the vote, which looks to youth, research and comanagement experiences, is somewhat encouraging.

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