European Parliament Calls for a Regional Approach to Small Scale Fisheries


European Parliament Calls for a Regional Approach to Small Scale Fisheries, for the fair allocation and gradual increase of quotas to small‑scale fishing 


Brussels, 18 April 2016

LIFE Platform


On Tuesday 12 April, at their plenary session in Strasbourg, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on “innovation and diversification of small-scale coastal fishing in fisheries-dependent regions (2015/2090(INI))”.

The Rapporteur, Croatian Euro-deputy Ruža Tomašić, highlighted that a new regionalized framework was needed for small scale coastal fisheries in order to take account of the specificities of different fisheries regions. Citing the example of the Mediterranean, Tomašić emphasised the need to abandon the one size fits all approach that has characterized the CFP to date.

LIFE completely agrees with, and has been calling for such an approach since it was founded in 2012. Such a differentiated approach is the only way to halt the erosion of fishing rights and the demise of small scale fisheries. We take on board Mr Vella’s comment that a “regionalised approach to the definition could have some merit but would also risk creating an uneven playing field.

However, a regionalised approach to defining small scale fisheries need not alter the EMFF definition. Rather, for example, Regional MAPs and the technical measures adopted by them would take greater account of different craft gear combinations in the smaller scale non-towed gear categories. This could be in the form of derogations, or specific technical measures to be applied to the passive gear fleet segments.

In LIFE’s view the implementation of Tomasic’s report would go a long way to righting many of the wrongs dealt out to the small scale fisheries sector, and create a fairer and more level playing field.

Responding to the initiative, Commissioner Vella observed that “it is a fact that small-scale coastal fishing vessels are fundamental for the viability and resilience of coastal communities dependent on them, and I fully agree with that view.

Il- Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) congratulates Madame Tomašić for her report, and the European Parliament for adopting it. The report endorses LIFE’s contention that the specificities of small scale coastal fisheries require a differentiated approach, and that such fisheries are best defined at local level, within a regional framework.

Commissioner Vella rightly highlighted that in the European Union at least 3 out of 4 vessels (75%) are characterized as being small in scale, i.e. under 12 metres using non towed gears.

Unlike larger scale, more industrial kinds of fishing operations, these small-scale activities generally have a low impact on the environment, whilst having a high social and economic value providing fresh fish, jobs, and supporting economic and cultural activities locally.

However, LIFE fully agrees with Commissioner Vella that the fleet needs regulating, and that further relaxing regulatory requirements on small-scale coastal fishing risks encouraging fishing by additional vessels and could worsen crowding in the coastal band, especially in areas where there is already a lot of pressure on regulated and unregulated stocks.

LIFE notes with concern that there are significant regulatory loopholes through which illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing passes in the guise of sports fishing. These loopholes need closing.

Since the Common Fisheries Policy was launched in 1983, the small scale sector has been neglected, marginalised and treated unfairly. For this reason, this fleet segment of often referred to as Europe’s “Forgotten Fleet”. Over the last 20 years, this segment of the fleet has declined the most, in some instances by as much as 40 to 50% since 1995.

Successive CFPs dating back to 1983 have tended to focus on larger scale fisheries, leaving national authorities to deal with smaller scale fisheries. With notable exceptions, national authorities have also tended to neglect smaller scale fisheries, and this has resulted in unfair treatment compared to larger scale fisheries (in terms of fishing access rights, access to markets, access to decision taking etc.).

Until the most recent review and reform of the European Union’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the management of small scale fisheries was considered to be a national issue. The “Green Paper” consultation initiated in 2009 questioned whether or not the CFP should adopt a differentiated approach to the management of fisheries: one approach for small scale fleets in coastal communities with a focus on social objectives, and another for large-scale fleets, with capacity adjustment and economic efficiency at the core.

Although this suggestion was not incorporated into the new CFP, it was endorsed by the European Parliament, which proposed a comprehensive range of measures to defend and promote the small-scale sector.

LIFE welcomes the fact that the financial instrument for implementing the CFP, the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF  – (EU) No 508/2014), as well as the Market Regulation ((EU) No 1379/2013 ), and the Regulation for the Advisory Councils (Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2015/242) all contain provisions which positively discriminate in favour of small scale fisheries.

However, as noted by Commissioner Vella, the implementation of these measures depends on Member States; that it is their responsibility to decide, under the respective operational programmes approved in late 2015, how to translate their strategic preferences into concrete support to their small-scale coastal fishing fleet.

LIFE calls on Member States to recognize the importance of small scale coastal fleets through specific plans for the modernization of the fleet. LIFE also fully endorses the call of the European Parliament for the quotas allocated to non-industrial fisheries to be increased, in order to boost this socially and ecologically sustainable form of fishing.

In our view the implementation of Article 17 is vital in this regard. Article 17 calls on Member States to “use transparent and objective criteria including those of an environmental, social and economic nature”, when allocating the fishing opportunities available to them. “The criteria to be used may include, inter alia, the impact of fishing on the environment, the history of compliance, the contribution to the local economy and historic catch levels. Within the fishing opportunities allocated to them, Member States shall endeavour to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage.”

Such measures, if applied in the spirit of the Article, would undoubtedly go a long way to providing the affirmative action necessary for small scale fisheries to regain their prominence in European fisheries.

Although many of Mrs Tomasic’s proposals are already contained in the new CFP, her report highlights the inertia in Member States to take the affirmative actions on small scale fisheries proposed, and the need for its full implementation.