"Integration" demanded for EU fishing policies

Commission calls for precautionary approach, extension of habitats directive reach

The EU's common fisheries policy (CFP) is failing to achieve sustainable fishing practices or to fully integrate environmental considerations despite already having both as set objectives, the European Commission has argued in a new policy paper.

Publication of the communication follows a request by EU heads of government in June for fisheries ministers to join the "Cardiff process" of environmental integration (ENDS Daily 23 June). The paper will serve as a basis for discussion by EU fisheries ministers, who are to make a full report on the issue next year.

Despite common principles and interests, the CFP and environmental policies are "still too often implemented in parallel, independently of one another," the paper argues. European countries around the North Sea have launched a process of integrating environment into fisheries policies, it notes (ENDS Daily 14 March 1997), but more needs to be done to "ensure a better balance between the resources available and the capacities of fisheries" under the CFP.

One route to achieving this, the Commission proposes, will be to require member states that exert sovereign rights in zones up to 200 nautical miles from their coasts to apply the requirements of the 1992 habitats directive. This would amount to a significant extension of the directive's reach since no sites beyond 12 nautical miles have been nominated to join the EU's Natura 2000 network, according to European conservation experts.

The Commission also pledges to "move towards adoption of a precautionary approach" to EU fisheries policy by establishing stock indicators and/or limitations on fishing pressure for all commercially important stocks.

Other "integration" measures identified by the paper include controlling pressure on fisheries by limiting access to fishing zones, catch levels and the intensity of fishing; adjusting fishing capacity to the fish available, and fixing medium term management targets. Better measures to conserve the natural marine environment include more selective fishing gear, protection of habitats including more Natura 2000 sites in coastal waters, protection of non-commercial marine species, and creation of conservation areas known as "boxes".

Training and information as well as scientific research for fisheries management are additional priorities in the communication. However, the Commission stresses that the paper does not address comprehensively all possible elements of a sustainable fishing policy, noting that the CFP is already scheduled for review in 2002.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: "Fisheries Management and Nature Conservation in the Marine Environment" (COM/99/365).

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