Maria Damanaki, European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
The main challenge in my area of responsibility within the EU is how to rebuild our policy towards a truly sustainable system for managing fisheries. We must break with the model the EU has followed for the last 20 years. Today three out of four fish stocks are overexploited; catches are only a fraction of what they used to be in the 90s, and are still dipping year after year – to an extent that we have to rely on imports for two-thirds of the fish we consume. We face the risk of losing one fish stock after another, with a possible chain reaction for the ecosystem that is hard to predict.
If things do not change, in future we will lose jobs for good, and not only among fishermen. The processing industry, transport, port infrastructures, auctions and retailers will be equally affected. What we need is healthier, sustainable fish stocks and a maximum economic return for fishing communities. To achieve these goals, we need to undertake a deep reform of our Common Fisheries Policy. Thus, the European Commission has developed and put on the table of co-decision (with the European Parliament and the Council) an ambitious set of proposals.
Under the new Common Fisheries Policy we want to make sure that by 2015 most catches are being made safely, in a sustainable way and with an end to discards (the throwing overboard of valuable fish). The size of the fishing fleet needs to be adapted to the actual fishing possibilities. We also want the decision-making process to become simpler, and to be transferred to the regional level. The Parliament and the Council will continue to establish long-term plans with specific, science-based objectives, but it would then be for those countries that have an interest in the fish stock to get together and agree on the specific measures needed to reach the objectives at regional level.
This is a reform that concerns everybody: fishermen, coastal populations, retailers, consumers and taxpayers. Together we can make the Common Fisheries Policy fit for today's – and tomorrow's – environmental and economic challenges in the EU.