Fisheries is a key priority for the EPP Group. Fishermen are vital economic actors and the first guardians of marine ecosystems and fishery resources. We want to ensure European fishermen can continue to earn their livelihood in a sustainable manner.

We want simpler and regionally-adapted rules for fishermen

Over the past few years, technical measures aimed at limiting unwanted catches, notably of juvenile fish, and at reducing the impacts of fishing activities on natural resources, have developed into a very complex set of more than 30 prescriptive measures. These measures that determine where, when and how fishermen can fish, were not flexible enough to adapt to the technical evolution and do not meet the particular needs of each fishery. For example, some technical measures are currently associated with restrictions prohibiting retention on board and landing of fish caught in contravention of these rules, leaving fishermen with no other option but to discard such fish at sea.

At the EPP Group, we believe it is necessary to make these rules simpler and tailor-made to adapt them to the specificities of each fishery and each sea basin. Several rules would be concerned such as the minimum landing size of fish, specifications for the design of fishing gear or the designation of closed or restricted areas for fishing.

We also want to reduce ‘micro-management’ and rigid technical rules and adopt a more flexible, simplification, results-based management and greater involvement of the sector in decisions on the Common Fisheries Policy.

Changing rules has to be done while protecting marine ecosystems and ensuring the conservation of fishery resources.

To make this simplification happen, we believe that the regional level is the more adequate one. By enhancing regionalisation, we will help fisheries suffering from excessive regulation to develop their business, better respond to their expectations and improve their participation in decision-making.

We also believe that the regional level is the most appropriate namely in establishing a target for the reduction of juvenile catches, instead of setting up an arbitrary, unrealistic and inflexible EU-wide numerical target, for which there is no scientific justification.

On 11 March 2016, a long-awaited proposal from the European Commission to overhaul a number of these existing rules and to establish a new legislative framework in this domain, built on the latest reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), was published. We are currently working on this new proposal to implement all of our priorities.

We want more than €7 billion to ensure sustainable fishing in Europe

In complement to the technical measures, the EPP Group is fighting to allow more than €7 billion in current prices to the new European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) for the period 2021-2027.

For the new fund, simpler rules had to be put in place in order to make access to this fund easier for fishermen. For the EPP Group, simplification and rationalisation are key elements for better legislation. We want the new fund to continue to support the European fisheries sector in the move towards more sustainable fishing practices and innovation. We want to support investment for the purpose of improving on board safety or the working or living conditions of the crew or the quality of fish.

Another key objective of the EPP Group is to simplify the conditions for granting aid to fishermen, as currently, the legal framework is extremely complex. We want to give the new EMFF a simpler and more flexible architecture that would allow Member States and operators to use the funds according to their needs instead of being bound by a list of pre-defined measures and eligibility rules.

Taking into account the specificities of each basin is key

For the EPP Group, better regulation is also acknowledging that European waters are not uniform. Indeed, there are different sea basins such as the North Sea, the Atlantic, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea that have specificities.

We cannot have the exact same set of rules in the North Sea and in the Mediterranean Sea. It would be counterproductive for the sector as well as for the preservation of the resource.

This is the reason why the EPP Group has fought for more regionalisation over the years.

These types of measures are set out in the Multiannual management plans (MAP). Three MAPs have been implemented for the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and for the Western Waters. The MAP for the Mediterranean Sea will soon enter into force.

Protecting fishermen against the consequences of Brexit

Supporting fishermen is also protecting them in rough times. Brexit is a major concern for the sector. We need to be prepared for every Brexit scenario.

If an agreement is reached with the UK, the EPP Group demands that the economic agreement (Customs Union or FTA) is conditioned by access to waters and resources.

The EPP Group will make sure fisheries is not a bargaining chip in the Brexit negotiations but on the contrary, a priority.

Conclusion

Over the years, the EPP Group has always fought for fishermen to be at the centre of legislation while ensuring a balance between the preservation of the resource and the competitiveness of the European fleet. The EPP Group will carry on accompanying the sector by being pragmatic in the decision-making process. In this regard, landing obligations, which means that certain catches of fish are no longer allowed to be discarded at sea, is one of the greatest concerns of the sector and will need to be adapted in order to achieve the objective of the selectivity it was supposed to target.

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