Sciaena presents 8 lessons learned during the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy

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The current European Union (EU) Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has defined 2020 as the year to deliver a major change in fisheries management: sustainable exploitation rates for all stocks. Despite progress, the EU has not achieved this goal.

With this in mind, on March 30, Sciaena organized a webinar named “Implementation of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy: lessons to be learned”, attended by 65 participants (recording available here).

After decades of overfishing and ineffective fisheries management, in 2013 the European Parliament and the governments of the then 28 EU Member States agreed on long-term reforms to the previous regulation. These included a definition of sustainable catch limits with the aim of restoring stocks, maintaining healthy ecosystems and safeguarding stable and profitable fisheries for the EU fleet. The policy more specifically called for fisheries ministers to guarantee sustainable exploitation rates, in line with scientific advice, “by 2015, whenever possible and, progressively and incrementally, by 2020 at the latest for all stocks”.
After the 2020 deadline, it is clear that the reforms have made some progress. However, the data also shows that policy decisions continue to set many catch limits above levels advised by science, with decision-making coming out regularly undermined by a short-term approach and less than necessary ambition.

Sciaena, who followed the CFP implementation process alongside many other associations, used The Pew Charitable Trusts‘ report “Lessons from the implementation of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy” to organize a webinar where it presented and discussed 8 lessons learned during this process:

1. Good management results.
2. Lowest ambition since 2013 has resulted in under-implementation.
3. Decisions often favored maintaining the status quo rather than changing habits.
4. The EU fisheries decision-making process remains siloed.
5. The short-term vision persists in the EU management.
6. Clarity about progress is often undermined by unclear and inconsistent reports.
7. Opaque decision-making hampers progress.
8. Stocks shared with non-EU countries present challenges in achieving CFP aims.

In addition to reinforcing these lessons during the webinar, the need to update the context to which the CFP applies must be emphasized, taking into account that knowledge about ocean conservation and its link to fighting climate change has advanced a lot in recent years. More specifically, we know that setting catch limits within the limits recommended by scientific knowledge contributes to improving the health of the ocean and increasing its resilience.
“The lessons we can learn from the implementation of the CFP must be a basis for improving the management of fisheries resources and lead policy makers to assume more ambitious and decisive environmental commitments in all areas of public environmental policies”, concluded Ana Matias, fisheries policy officer in Sciaena.

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