A European Union institutional Task Force on multiannual plans (MAPs), co-chaired by Scottish Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson, Senior Vice President of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, has delivered its final report which charts the way forward to the eventual introduction of multiannual plans under the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
Originally established during the Lithuanian presidency of the European Council in September 2013 and borne out of a dispute between the Council and European Parliament over power-sharing agreements in the determination of fishing opportunities in EU waters, the Task Force has agreed a comprehensive management plan for single and multi-species fisheries.
Nearly all fish stocks and fisheries are managed by way of a MAP, which define the goals for stock management. MAPs under the new Common Fisheries Policy now include a target of fishing at maximum sustainable yield (MSY) as well as deadlines to reach that target.
A dispute had arisen between the Council and Parliament over whether decisions concerning the management and content of MAPs should be taken solely by the Council or completed through the co-decision process involving both the Council and Parliament. These diverging views have meant that since 2009, proposals for new MAPs or amendments to existing plans have not progressed.
A case is currently before the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that will resolve this dispute and the Task Force’s recommendations will not override this decision. Its purpose instead was to try and find a middle ground that would complement any future ECJ ruling and allow work on MAPs to begin immediately.
Speaking from Brussels, Struan Stevenson said:
“The Task Force was charged with finding a pragmatic way forward and to pave the way for the essential development of MAPs under the newly reformed Common Fisheries Policy. MAPs are crucial to managing the long-term sustainability of European fish stocks as well as being of vital importance to the financial security of fishermen. They need measures in place to be able to plan ahead and our ground-breaking agreement in the Task Force will pave the way for the implementation of new-look MAPS.
“The Task Force scored a major breakthrough in November last year with an initial agreement affecting future long-term plans for single species, pelagic stocks. Today’s agreement on multi-species mixed fisheries means the annual gladiatorial battle between EU Fisheries Ministers to thrash out Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas for the year ahead is nearing an end. Fishermen will soon have the confidence of knowing what they are allowed to catch for up to five years or more, enabling them to borrow capital from the banks to build new vessels or modernise existing ones.
“This is an important step forward for the EU, for our fishing industry and I commend all the Task Force’s members for their patience and perseverance throughout this process.”