Fisheries

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Fish are a valuable natural resource, and yet - reflecting the rather confused definition of the parameters of 'environmental' policy in the EU - the management and conservation of fish stocks are rarely included in discussions about EU environmental policy. At least part of the problem stems from confusion about the meaning of the term 'conservation', a problem well-illustrated by the argument made by Coffey (1996). She suggests that fisheries conservation involves managing the harvesting of renewable resources, and maintaining stocks at levels which permit their rational and sustainable exploitation. However, she suggests that nature conservation 'involves the protection of species and habitats and wider goals such as the maintenance of biological diversity', thus implying that the term 'conservation' has two different meanings. In truth, it does not, and it has historically been used more consistently in relation to the idea of managing resources for exploitation rather than protecting such resources. As noted in Chapter 3, the terms 'conservation', 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable exploitation' are all interchangeable, and thus EU policies on fisheries conservation are just as much a part of the environmental acquis as are those on the management of air and water quality. Nonetheless, fisheries policy is mentioned by Johnson and Corcelle (1995) only in relation to water quality; fisheries policy is mentioned only briefly in Europe's Environment: The Second Assessment (EEA, 1998, pp. 221-5); and EU legislation and policy on fisheries management is listed on the Europa Web site not under the work of the Environment DG, but under that of the Fisheries DG.

The Treaty of Rome made provision for a Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but it was not until the 1970s that this finally began to take shape, prompted by the decision by coastal states to extend their fishing zones from 12 miles to 200 miles in the face of dwindling stocks and falling catches, and by the accession to the Community of three new fishing nations, Britain, Denmark and Ireland. Attempts to resolve competing claims to fishing grounds and to develop an equitable management plan for Community fisheries were bitter and controversial, but they finally resulted in the adoption of regulations 2057/82 and

170/83 establishing a system for conserving fisheries resources in Community waters, and by the agreement of the CFP in 1983, which was modified in 1992. Its goals were driven by the precautionary principle, and were aimed at resolving conflicts over territorial fishing rights and preventing overfishing by setting catch quotas. Even though fishing employs just 0.2 per cent of the EU workforce, and accounts for less than 1 per cent of the economies of most member states, the fishing industry is a key part of life in coastal communities all around the EU, and so has important economic implications for some of Europe's poorer regions.

Conservation is at the heart of the CFP, and is promoted in three main ways. First, the CFP has opened all the waters within the EU's 200-mile limit to all EU fishing boats, but gives member states the right to restrict access to fishing grounds within 12 miles of their shores. One of the problems with this arrangement was that it was difficult to police, so, since 1995, all EU fishing boats have had to be licensed, and the Commission has been given greater powers to monitor fishing activities using satellites and its own (few) inspectors on the ground, and to monitor every stage in the fishing process from catching to landing to sales.

Second, the CFP prevents overfishing by imposing quotas (Total Allowable Catches, or TACs) on the take of Atlantic and North Sea fish. Stock levels are assessed annually, and the TACs are fixed at the end of each year by the Council of Ministers on the basis of scientific advice, including that from national experts in the Commission's own Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries. Limits are placed on the catch of particular species in specific areas, and are divided up as quotas among the member states, which can then allocate them locally or exchange them with other member states. The CFP also prevents overfishing by regulating fishing areas and equipment. For example, limits have been set on the mesh size of fishing nets, and minimum weights have been established for catch sizes so as to prevent catches of young fish.

Third, the CFP guides negotiations with other countries on access to waters outside those controlled by member states, and on the conservation of fisheries. The EU has so far reached more than two dozen agreements with non-member states, and takes part in the work of - and has signed agreements developed by - several international fisheries organizations, including the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), the International Baltic Sea Fishery Commission (IBSFC), and the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO). International treaties signed by the Community include the following:

• Protocol to the International Convention for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (Rio de Janeiro, 1966).

• Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries (Ottawa, 1978).

• Convention for the Conservation of Salmon in the North Atlantic Ocean (Reykjavik, 1982).

• Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources in the Baltic Sea and the Belts (Gdansk, 1982).

At the core of the CFP was regulation 170/83, which established a 20-year Community system for the conservation and management of fishery resources. Following a mid-term review, it was replaced in 1992 when regulation 3760/92 was adopted with the goal of introducing alternative fisheries management measures to integrate conservation and aquaculture, including the commercial rearing of fish, the establishment of zones where fishing was restricted or prohibited, the placing of limits on the time that vessels could spend at sea, and the introduction of technical measures relating to fishing gear. Criticism continued to be levelled at EU policy, however, with concerns about conservation policies being ineffective, about weaknesses in monitoring arrangements, and about failures to integrate fisheries policy with broader environmental objectives.

In 1997, ministers from North Sea states and representatives from the EU met in Bergen, Norway, and - quoting the precautionary principle - agreed to an 'ecosystem approach' to managing the marine environment, based on protecting processes in ecosystems critical to the maintenance of productivity, taking into account food-web interactions, and protecting the chemical, physical and biological environment necessary to the well-being of ecosystems. In July 1999, the Commission - quoting the inte-grative principle - sent a communication to the Council and the EP in which it argued that interactions between fisheries and marine ecosystems should be integrated into the CFP, in coordination with nature protection policies (Commission, 1999).

TABLE 9.2 Key pieces of EU law on fisheries, agriculture, forestry and energy

2057/82 Regulation on fishing activities. Establishes control measures for fishing by vessels of member states.

170/83 Regulation on the conservation of fisheries.

Establishes Community system for the conservation and management of fishery resources.

797/85 Regulation on efficiency of agricultural structures. Introduces concept of environmentally sensitive farming into the Common Agricultural Policy.

3528/86 Regulation on the protection of forests from air pollution. Helps member states take periodic inventories of damage to forests from air pollution, and establish a network of observatories.

3529/86 Regulation on the protection of forests from fire.

Introduces measures to prevent and monitor forest fires.

1615/89 Regulation on forest information. Establishes the

European Forestry Information and Communication System.

91/565 Decision on CO2 emissions and energy efficiency.

Establishes Specific Actions for Vigorous Energy Efficiency (SAVE), to limit CO2 emissions by improving energy efficiency.

2092/91 Regulation on organic agriculture. Sets up harmonized framework for labelling, production and control of organic agricultural products.

2078/92 Regulation on agricultural production methods.

Requires member states to establish aid schemes to encourage agricultural production methods compatible with the protection of the environment and the maintenance of the countryside.

3760/92 Regulation on fisheries and aquaculture. Establishes Community system for management of exploitation of living aquatic resources so as to promote sustainable development.

93/500 Decision on renewable energy. Promotes renewable energy sources in the EC (ALTENER).

98/352 Decision on renewable energy. Establishes ALTENER II.

There is clearly more work to be done before a workable policy on the conservation of fisheries can emerge.

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