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Speech Borg in Noorwegen over duurzame visserij in het kader van het Gemeenschappelijk Visserijbeleid (en)

vrijdag 25 februari 2005, 15:05

Joe Borg
Member of the European Commission Responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs<h1> Taking the CFP Reforms forward - Opportunities and Challenges in achieving a sustainable European Fisheries Policy </h1> Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Bergen
Bergen, 25 February 2005

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Speaking to a Norwegian audience about the importance of the seas may sound a little like stating the obvious. In a country boasting a coastline of some 22,000 kilometres and a rich history of seafaring, one need not look far to appreciate the extent of Norway's economic, social, cultural and environmental maritime heritage. Indeed, I am sure few in Norway would question the need for us to manage the seas' in a sustainable way.

My own country, Malta, that has just become a member of the European Union, may be smaller than yours. However, just as you here, we too have lived by the sea and from the sea, and learned the importance of caring for the hand that `feeds us'. For you, like for us, the sea is our livelihood and our window to the outside world.

But this does not apply exclusively to Norway and Malta. Europe as a whole has a strong maritime identity. Squeezed between one ocean and four seas, Europe is a large peninsula with thousands of kilometres of coastline. Oceans and seas considerably influence our climate and thus our agricultural productivity. They are of considerable economic importance in sustaining hundreds of thousands of jobs in sea-related industries such as fisheries, tourism, transport and energy. And they are also important to us in terms of leisure and sport.

Here are some statistics worth recalling:

  • In the European Union maritime regions account for over 40% of the GNP of the former EU15. This percentage is expected to be larger when considering the EU of 25 member states.
  • Between 3 and 5% of Europe's GNP is estimated to be generated directly from marine based industries and services. This figure does not include the value of raw materials such as oil, gas or fish, and nor does it take into account indirect economic benefits arising from other services such as tourism and real estate.
  • The EU is the third largest fishery producer in the world. More than half a million people work in the fishery sector in Europe, and the EU average consumption of fish stands at almost 25 kg per head per annum - a figure which is considerably higher than the world average of 16 kg per head per year.

However, the seas are extremely fragile ecosystems that are suffering heavily from pollution, eutrophication, habitat disturbance and climate change. Fisheries too, have, all too often, been an important contributor to the degradation of certain marine ecosystems. In the past, managers failed to protect fish stocks from overexploitation, excessive fishing capacity and inappropriate fishing methods and practices. However now the scientists are giving us a clear message: many of our fish stocks are outside safe biological limits.

The 2002 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy was a turning-point in making environmental, economic and social sustainability its central idea. I am grateful for this opportunity to give you an overview of what has happened within the Common Fisheries Policy of the EU since the reform that was agreed in 2002.

First allow me to outline the main elements of the reform and then to describe how this has been put into practice during the two years since. I will also take a look at the bilateral fisheries relations between the EU and Norway.

However let me start by recalling why we have an EU common fisheries policy in the first place.

It is true that fish do not recognise human boundaries. Fishermen have traditionally been conducting fishing activities in the waters of countries other than their country of origin. Moreover, most of these fishing activities target more than one species at the same time. Therefore, putting in place a common framework for the conservation of fisheries within the EU, is necessary to ensure that all parties share responsibility for the management and monitoring of the stocks concerned. A common policy is also useful as it eliminates the less efficient and time-consuming alternative of negotiating bi- or multilateral treaties which would have to be agreed between Member States for each and every stock.

The reformed CFP takes this one step further. It no longer focuses solely on conservation, but also on the interests of the fishing industry and of the coastal communities dependent on fisheries. For example, the CFP foresees that in view of the precarious economic state of the fishing industry and the dependence of certain coastal communities on fishing, it is necessary to ensure the relative stability of fishing activities. Every member state is therefore entitled to a predictable share of the stocks on the basis of its historical catches.

So when in December 2002, the EU embarked on the most far-reaching reform of this Community policy since its creation, the aim was to redress its deficiencies. Essentially, the policy had failed to deliver fully both on preserving fish stocks and on ensuring the viability of the fisheries sector.

Our new policy consists of four core elements:

Firstly, we today follow a long-term approach for managing Community fish stocks. Short-term decision-making on an annual basis, has been replaced by multi-annual recovery plans for those stocks that are in danger of collapsing. Multi-annual management plans are established for healthy stocks.

The Commission has presented four proposals for recovery plans for stocks in danger. These recovery plans limit the time fishermen can spend at sea, so as to ensure that the catch limits are adhered to. Very big landings of a species can also only take place after prior notification of the port authorities so that a proper inspection can be carried out.

Two such recovery plans are already in place: one for several cod stocks - including the North Sea stock which we share with you - and another for the Northern hake stock. The Commission is developing further proposals for recovery plans, such as for cod in the Baltic Sea. We are also developing proposals for long-term management plans for North Sea flatfish.

In the co-operation between the Community and Norway, we have taken this a step further by agreeing on a number of long-term management plans for stocks such as cod, saithe, haddock, plaice and herring that we share in the North Sea. I hope that we will soon be able to adopt similar plans for other shared stocks such as anglerfish, horse mackerel and Norway pout.

Secondly, in the CFP reform we introduced simpler and more effective rules for limiting fishing capacity. No increases in capacity are allowed and reductions in capacity are targeted towards the newly introduced recovery and management plans so as to ensure that the capacity of the fleets is matched to available resources. Public aid for construction and modernisation of fishing vessels that could increase capacity, or for the transfer of EU vessels to third countries, has also been phased out.

Thirdly, control and enforcement has been strengthened to create a level playing-field. We are monitoring national control systems more strictly than in the past and have launched a number of infringement procedures against Member States which are not properly enforcing fisheries rules.

A major new development in this area of control is the Community Control Agency that will be established in Spain over the coming months. The basic idea is that Member States will pool their control resources and allow inspections under the aegis of the Agency to take place within each other's waters. This will allow for better implementation of pre-agreed monitoring programmes through the pooling of control and inspection resources, improved cost-effectiveness and a general increase in the standard and level of control.

Finally, the CFP reform also means the better involvement of stakeholders in the decision-making process through the establishment of Regional Advisory Councils, or RACs. These councils bring together, on a regional basis, representatives of the fisheries sector and other stakeholders to give advice and make suggestions in relation to fisheries management. A RAC for the North Sea is already in operation, and over the coming year, we expect a further three RACs to be set up in other areas such as the Baltic Sea, the Western Community waters and the Mediterranean.

The relevant regulation on RACs states that two thirds of the General Assembly should be made up of representatives of the fishing industry and the remaining third of representatives of other interests. Additional interested parties, such as third countries like Norway, have the possibility to apply for observer status in these RACs and it is then up to the RAC itself to take a decision on whether and in which form observer status will be granted. Norway has in fact, already participated as an observer to one of the meetings of the North Sea RAC.

Also with a view to better involve stakeholders, the Commission holds ad hoc meetings to discuss topical subjects, such as fishing quotas, with fishermen's representatives, processors, environmental NGOs and consumer organisations. Through this, we succeed in involving stakeholders at an early stage in the decision-making process.

These therefore were the fundamental concepts of the 2002 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Two years later we can take stock of how far we have come.

I am pleased to say that overall the picture is positive: we have made significant progress in the right direction. The process of cutting back on fishing to replenish stocks may sometimes have to be more gradual than the immediate, one-step correction that some scientists would prefer. We try to avoid asking the fishing industry to accept sudden and large reductions in fishing except in critical cases of over-fishing, as severe shocks to the industry can have wide-ranging social, as well as economic, consequences. But the basic direction of our policy remains the same: the implementation of a new EU management framework with special emphasis on multi-annual management plans, a reduction in the size of the fishing fleet, the end of public aid for the building of new fishing vessels, the promotion of environmentally-friendly fishing methods and the establishment of recovery plans for particularly over-exploited stocks. All this is intended to fundamentally change past behaviour.

We still have some way to go, however, before achieving sustainable fisheries and a secure economic future for our fisheries sector.

One area in particular, which also involves Norway, is the multilateral management of straddling stocks in the North East Atlantic.

For two of the most important of these stocks, blue whiting and "Norwegian spring spawning herring", we do not yet have international agreements on management. This has led to an Olympic fishery, where catches of blue whiting for example, have increased from around 600,000 to almost 2.5 million tonnes.

Another example is the multilateral management of the deep-sea resources, where we have so far failed to agree on measures needed to ensure the long-term sustainability of the fisheries.

The examples I have mentioned raise the question: is the current multilateral management framework with its mixture of coastal state and NEAFC decisions able to live up to the commitments we have? The answer is, no, or at least, not yet, as we are currently looking for ways to strengthen NEAFC and its regulatory powers.

In the interim it is time to step back and take a fresh look at how we deal with these multilateral issues.

Another issue where we must improve our performance is in relation to discards - an area where you already have considerable experience.

The Council has agreed with the Commission that we need action in this area. Our first challenge is to improve the selectivity of fishing, in order to catch fewer immature fish. A second challenge is to examine whether limitations, or even bans, on discards can be established in at least some Community fisheries. The Commission is working on a number of projects, in cooperation with the fishing industry, which we hope to be able to launch later this year. We are most certainly interested in exchanging views with you on this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Major steps towards sustainability have been taken in recent years. Yet still more needs to be done before we attain our objectives. I am convinced that we should take these steps hand in hand with our partners.

Norway is one of the EU's closest partners. It has participated in the European Economic Area since 1994, with the exception of agriculture and fisheries. Many EU rules are applicable in Norway and Norwegian representatives take part in the preparatory work for legislation that affects the EEA.

Norwegians have been debating the whole question of EU accession and the various pros and cons of membership for years and years. In my own country we had a similar, often passionate, discussion to the one you have here, about this crucial decision, before finally deciding in 2003 that we wanted to join the European Union the following year. We did this knowing that the EU is not a panacea for all the challenges we face. We also did this safe in the knowledge that it is not an institution where the bigger countries impose their will on the smaller ones. I, personally, am ever more convinced that joining the Union was the right thing to do and I am today glad to see my country already reaping the rewards of membership.

In your case, it is up to you to determine how and to which degree you wish to interact with the EU. Whatever your choice will be, I think we have a strong case for working together. We also share common values that will make any co-operation between us bear fruit.

Fisheries management is one example out of many which, despite certain disagreement at times, demonstrates our increasingly converging objectives and approach. There are countless other areas where we see eye to eye.

We must build on these common positions, not only because we are neighbours and the actions of one closely impact on the other, but also because we have a responsibility to our citizens to give them the best possible future.

Let us spare no effort to make our cooperation effective.

Thank you.


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