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The EU Common Fisheries Policy

The common fisheries policy is one of the key EU policies and also one of the most contentious areas of EU involvement. Although fisheries forms part of the common agricultural policy, the aims and priorities of the fisheries policy have tended to be different to those under the common agricultural policy.

So what sectors are affected by the common fisheries policy?

Fisheries actually forms part of the Common Agricultural Policy. Annex 1 of the Treaty states that the following are covered by the Common Fisheries Policy.

  • Fish, crustaceans and molluscs
  • Animal products not elsewhere specified or included; dead fish, crustaceans or molluscs unfit for human consumption.
  • Fats and oil, of fish and marine mammals, whether or not refined.
  • Preparations of fish, of crustaceans or molluscs.

What are the objectives of the Common fisheries policy (CFP)

All of the Member governments agreed when the last Treaty was being drafted that the objectives of the common fisheries policy should be:

  • to increase fishing productivity by promoting technical progress and by ensuring the rational development of fisheries production and the optimum utilisation of the factors of production, in particular labour;
  • to ensure a fair standard of living for the fishing community, in particular by increasing the individual earnings of persons engaged in fishing;
  • to stabilise markets;
  • to assure the availability of supplies;
  • to ensure that supplies reach consumers at reasonable prices.

In working out the common fisheries policy the EU should take account of:

  • the particular nature of fishing activity, which results from the social structure of fishing and from structural and natural disparities between the various fisheries regions;
  • the need to effect the appropriate adjustments by degrees;
  • the fact that in the Member States fisheries constitutes a sector closely linked with the economy as a whole.

In order to attain the objectives listed above, the Member governments agreed that a common organisation of agricultural markets would need to be established. These would take one of the following forms, depending on the product concerned:

(a) common rules on competition;

(b) compulsory coordination of the various national market organisations;

(c) a European market organisation.

The common organisation of fisheries markets might cover all measures to attain the above objectives, in particular

  • The regulation of prices,  
  • Aids for the production and marketing of the various products,  
  • Storage and carryover arrangements and  
  • Common machinery for stabilising imports or exports.

The role of the common organisation of fisheries markets is limited to pursuing the objectives outlined above. Any discrimination between producers or consumers within the EU, by the common organisation of fisheries markets, should be excluded.

Any common price policy should be based on common criteria and uniform methods of calculation.

To enable the objectives set out above to be achieved, provision may be made within the framework of the CFP for measures such as:

  • an effective coordination of efforts in the spheres of:
    • vocational training,
    • of research and
    • of the dissemination of fisheries knowledge; this may include joint financing of projects or institutions;
  • joint measures to promote consumption of certain products.

Under the terms agreed by the Member governments when the last Treaty was signed, the Council may replace the national market organisations by a common organisation, subject to certain criteria.

Under the CFP, where in a Member State a product is subject to a national market organisation or to internal rules having equivalent effect which affects the competitive position of similar production in another Member State, a countervailing charge will be applied by Member States to imports of this product coming from the Member State where such organisation or rules exist, unless that State applies a countervailing charge on export.

It will be up to the Commission to fix the amount of these charges at the level required to redress the balance. The Commission may also authorise other measures to deal with this specific situation.

Fisheries is governed by the consultation procedure, and is also one area over which the EU has exclusive competence. The effect of exclusive competence means that Member States no longer have the power to introduce their own legislation in these areas. They can only act within the limits of strictly defined management/implementing powers delegated back to the national governments by the EU. If the EU comes out with legislation in these areas the national governments may come out with their own national legislation to implement them, but they may not come out with their own legislation outside of the EU framework, particularly anything that conflicts with EU law.

Given the far reaching powers that the EU has in this area, it is therefore vitally important for fishermen, and those affected by fishing policy, to get involved whilst the legislation is being drafted, so as to secure the best deal they can.