Inching Ahead With E.U. Fisheries Reform


The European Council, represented by fisheries ministers from 27 countries, has approved a general approach that was first proposed last July to reform its Common Fisheries Policy. The intent is to limit catches to the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), ban vessels from discarding dead fish, and institute other reforms aimed at protecting fish stocks, marine ecosystems, and the financial viability of fishing fleets.

But don't expect change on the water anytime soon. The discard ban wouldn't go into effect for several years, and it could be 2020 before all stocks are fished at MSY.

In a statement, Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe, said: "Although this result is highly disappointing, particularly with regards to the discard ban, it is realistically the best outcome we could have expected from the Fisheries Council." E.U. ministers "did not question the need to change fisheries management," he added, "they just admitted that they are not ready to do it right now. It is now up to the Parliament to lead and make the necessary and immediate changes required."

Fisheries scientist Rainer Froese of the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences in Kiel, Germany, a longtime advocate for policy reform, was also disappointed. "The Council has severely weakened the proposal by the Commission," he wrote in an e-mail to ScienceInsider. "Many loopholes have been built in. The goal to rebuild stocks ABOVE the level that can produce MSY has apparently been given up."

The European Parliament is scheduled to take a final vote on the reform in July of next year.