Launched by the European Commission in December 2021, the 2022 review of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is now entering its closing stages. This review will culminate in a European Commission report to the European Parliament and Council on the functioning of the CFP and how its implementation across and among Member States can be strengthened. The European Commission is required under the CFP to deliver this report by the end of the year.
CFP Review Process
The targeted consultation process began with an online questionnaire launched by the European Commission in December 2021. In February, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue, established the national CFP Review Group to provide input to the European review from an Irish perspective.
This Review Group then invited responses to their public consultation in April. Fair Seas responded to this national consultation process, but highlighted that the consultation window was insufficient, a sentiment shared by other respondents.
A further public Call for Evidence opened at an EU level in September, inviting comments from the public and stakeholders on the functioning of the CFP. Fair Seas also provided comments on this latest call.
National CFP Review Group Report
As an output of the national Review Group, the CFP Review Group Report was presented to cabinet in early October by Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue.
The Fair Seas submission and a report by Fair Seas partner, BirdWatch Ireland, entitled ‘Common Fisheries Policy 2020 – A Discarded Opportunity’ received special mention in the final report presented to cabinet, with the Fair Seas submission regarded as ‘substantive’ by the Review Group.
The European Commission has stated that it will not be making legislative changes to the CFP from this review, but this has been challenged in the national Review Group’s report which sees at least some legislative change to the CFP as imperative.
Many elements of the CFP which can deliver effective benefits for fisheries and biodiversity have gone unimplemented since the reformed objectives came into force in 2014. Furthermore, the failure to effectively implement the CFP has knock-on consequences for Ireland’s wider obligations of ensuring a healthy marine environment.
Much criticism has been levelled at the EU’s failure to fully implement the CFP, and achieve its overarching objectives. It is worth noting that these are not merely guidelines for practice but are indeed legal obligations that each Member State is required to implement and adhere to. Fair Seas strongly believes the rigorous and full implementation of the CFP is essential to achieve the sustainable management of all commercially exploited species.
The CFP is interlinked with other EU legislation relating to the health of our marine environment and requires coherence with the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). If implemented effectively the CFP should contribute to the protection of the marine environment, particularly to the achievement of good environmental status (GES) of our wider seas. Ireland failed to achieve GES for 6 out of the 11 descriptors in the latest 2020 MSFD assessment. Some of the descriptors that Ireland failed to achieve GES for included Biological Diversity, Commercial fish & shellfish, Foodwebs, and Sea-floor integrity. Similarly, failure to implement the CFP fully has adverse impacts. As highlighted by a 2021 EU Parliament report, failing to implement Article 17 of the CFP makes it more difficult for EU Member States and their fisheries to reach the objectives of the MSFD.
Meanwhile, the Irish Government has committed to the full implementation of the CFP and the expansion of Ireland’s Marine Protected Area (MPA) network. An ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management is enshrined in the CFP, and such an approach would play an important role in achieving ecologically coherent and well-managed MPAs, and in helping to ensure healthy seas and a sustainable fishing industry.
Additionally, the CFP fails to recognise the greatest challenge facing the planet; climate change. This is one of a number of criticisms discussed by a coalition of EU NGOs as climate change is not mentioned in the CFP. The link between ocean health and climate is gaining increasing attention with focus on ‘Blueing the Paris Agreement’ ahead of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) next month. Fisheries management needs to do similarly and incorporate climate change into the context of its objectives.
Next Steps for CFP Review
The upcoming European Commission report on the 2022 CFP Review is expected by the end of the year. Opportunity exists within the current CFP to deliver real and tangible social and environmental benefits for both fishing communities and biodiversity, which have knock-on benefits for employment and the economy too. Fair Seas eagerly anticipates the release of the Commission’s report later this year.
We also welcome you to join us in Cork on 8th June, where we are hosting our inaugural World Ocean Day conference. We are bringing ocean advocates, government, industry and key stakeholders together to map out the next steps for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Irish waters.
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