Overcapacity in the EU’s fishing fleet is being reduced at a very slow rate and is being affected by technological changes that are making ships more productive, according to a report released by the European Commission today (9 July).
In 2010, the size (by tonnage) of the EU fishing fleet capacity was reduced by about 4%, while its engine power was reduced by 2%. That was around the same rate as in 2009. “The report’s findings put into question the efficiency of publicly financed capacity reductions,” the Commission said.
Overcapacity – too many fishing boats for the volume of fish that can be caught – was identified by the Commission as the primary failure of EU fisheries management in a 2009 green paper on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). In its proposal to reform the CFP, the Commission has proposed that member states introduce a system of transferable fishing concessions for large vessels.
Member states were asked to assess the issue of capacity, but not all of them were co-operative. Spain and Ireland did submit an assessment but there were no conclusions on the balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities. The UK did not submit a report.
Markus Knigge, advisor to the Pew Environment Group, said the Commission’s report shows that public spending in member states is hampering the goal of reducing overcapacity.
“Public aid must not be spent on maintaining overcapacity but rather on public goods, such as control and enforcement, data collection, or research,” he said. “Any reform of the CFP must ensure that member states adequately assess the balance between fleet capacity and available resources and oblige them to eliminate overcapacity.”
A global report was also issued today from the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), showing that 87% of the world’s fish stocks are fully exploited or over exploited. This is a 2% increase since 2010. The FAO report concludes that it is unlikely that the Johannesburg international commitment to exploit stocks at the maximum sustainable level by 2015 will be achieved.
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