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«Europe and the Tragedy of the Commons: A detailed analysis of the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) euryopa Institut européen de ...»

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Teresa Schare

Europe and the "Tragedy of the

Commons": A detailed analysis of

the European Common Fisheries

Policy (CFP)


Institut européen de l’Université de Genève

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euryopa vol. 39-2006 ISBN 2-940174-40-7 ISSN 1421-6817 © Institut européen de l’Université de Genève Décembre 2006 Table of contents Acknowledgments IV List of abbreviations V Introduction 1


The Tragedy of the Commons Environmental and ecological effects of overfishing 5 Status quo 10


The European Common Fisheries Policy The need for the CFP 15 The emergence of the CFP 18


The Reform of the CFP in 2003 The CFP in Crisis: sustainable fishing and resource management 25 Enforcement procedures and control systems 30 II Community aid and subsidies for the fishing fleet 32 Environmental Protection 36 Involvement of Stakeholders 40 The international dimension 41


The Fisheries Sector of the European Union The Fisheries Sector of the Member States 45 The EU’s fishing fleet 57 Landings 61 Employment rates and figures 63 The processing industry 66


The Challenges of the EU Enlargement Impact of accession of ten new Member States 69 Candidate Countries 78 III


International Fishery Action plan against illegal fishing activities 81 Marine park conservation proposals 87


Present and Future of a Sustainable Fisheries Sector

–  –  –


This piece of work is part of the DEA European Studies programme of the European Institute at the University of Geneva. Professor Victoria Curzon-Price acted as my dissertation supervisor for the last six months and I am very grateful for her patience, support, motivation and help. Is its thanks to her that I became increasingly aware of the dilemma of the Tragedy of the Commons and the difficulty that the European Union’s fishing industry is currently facing in trying to resolve this problem. Te Tragedy of the Commons is of great relevance today and this is not only the case for the fisheries sector. Various other areas also suffer from an absence of property rights and experience a similar dilemma as the fish.

Furthermore, I would like to thank Dr. Miroslav Jovanovic form the UN Economic Commission for Europe who was willing to read my work and be a member of the jury on the 11th of May 2005.

Whilst doing my research work, I was very pleased to experience the cooperation and help of various NGO’s and German fisheries organisations, which were always happy to answer questions and transmit information. I was particularly delighted to speak to Mr.

Jacob McLay, a fisheries officer from the department of Conservation and Protection of the Canadian government in Nova Scotia, who explained in great detail and with patience how Canada is fighting IUU fishing and he also suggested several models in trying to resolve the excessive overexploitation of fisheries resources.

I also very much appreciated the assistance in the correction and in technical questions given to me by my brother, Agi, Amy, Alex and Till. I would like to express special thanks to my parents and Kai for their critical opinions and impressions, but most of all for their support and motivation.



CFCA Community Fisheries and Control Agency CFP Common Fisheries Policy EC European Community ECE Eastern and Central European Countries ECU European Currency Unit EEA European Environmental Agency EEZ Exclusive Economic Zone EU European Union € Euro FAO Food and Agriculture Organisation FIFG Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance F&O Fisheries & Oceans ICES International Council for the Exploration of the Sea IEEP Institute for European Environment Policy IPOA International Plan of Action ITQ Individual Transferable/Tradable Quotas IUU Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing kW Engine Power MAGP Multi-annual Guidance Program MS Member State NGO Non-governmental Organisation OOA Open Ocean Aquaculture POP Persistent Organic Pollutants PPL Production Possibility Line RAC Regional Advisory Council RFO Regional Fisheries Organisation T Tonnage TAC Total Allowable Catch UN United Nations UNEP United Nations Environment Program


The terminology Tragedy of the Commons originates from Garret Hardin in 1968 who affirmed that "[…] the inherent logic of the commons remorselessly generates tragedy […]". This statement describes the present situation of fish stock in the European Union in a precise manner. The word tragedy refers to the depletion of the common fish resources and the commons stands for common ownership, hence the absence of private ownership and property rights1.

The aim of this essay is to outline the current effects of the tragedy of the commons which has resulted in the depletion of European fish stocks and in menace and destruction of the marine eco-system. Most fish stocks in Community waters have been classified as being below their safe biological limits for stock biomass. Stock sizes, catches and landings in ports have drastically declined within the last two decades. Many species are close to extinction. Furthermore, destructive fishing gear is employed in catching activities, which severely harms the marine eco-system and habitat, yet increases the volume of catches. For years, the EU financed an expanding fisheries sector and encouraged the fishing industry and fishermen to exploit fish resources in an unsustainable manner and without considering the negative consequences arising for future generations.

The growing scarcity of fish stock has lead to an increase of market prices for fish. Thus, every fisherman has the objective to maximise his benefit and return, regardless of the damages caused for future fish stock and the fishing industry. The fact that fishermen impose negative externalities on one another and harm one another does not hinder them in continuing to pursue their business as usual. Vessel technology has experienced a revolutionary boom in recent years assisting and facilitating fishing 1Ayre L. HILLMAN, "Private Solutions for Externalities, Responsibilities and Limitations of Governments", in Ayre L. HILMAN, Public Finance and Public Policy, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2002, p. 231.

2 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" activities. Additional to this problem comes the excessive fleet capacity, burdening fish stocks even further. Only 5 of the current 25 Member States of the European Union are landlocked countries and do not possess major fishing industries. Thus, the EU has 20 fishing nations, whose economic dependency on this sector is rather large. The largest fishing nations are Spain, Greece, Italy and Portugal consisting of the largest community fleets. The excessive exploitation of marine resources and the destruction of the ecosystem and marine habitat also have a negative effect on long term productivity/benefits of fish stock A number of solutions have been put forth by the European Commission in order to solve the tragedy of the commons and its disastrous consequences. In 2003, the European Union decided to reform the CFP and introduced a number of new regulations and obligations for Member States. It should be noted that fishermen ought to be made aware of the fact that if every one of them reduces catches to a small extent, the overall use and benefit would be more efficient and sufficient stocks are guaranteed for reproduction2.

Unfortunately, the strategy of maximising personal benefits by taking advantage of free resources is widely dispersed and sustainable management and conservation measures have not yet found sounding resonance amongst fishermen.

The CFP reform of 2003 initiates several measures, which burden the fishing industry and will most certainly result in negative social consequences for example through a drastic fleet reduction, new resource and conservation management (i.e. the closure of various fishing areas for reproductions measures and possibly the creation of marine parks/reserves) and most of all the end of EU subsidies for new vessel production. Retraining programmes need to be established in order to give dismissed fishermen an opportunity to transfer into other branches of the industry. Scientific advice and recommendations in the establishment and allocation of TACs has thus far been sought but

2 Ibid., p. 234.Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 3

eventually been ignored and not been taken into consideration as political interests play a significant role.

The EU has called for the creation of RAC’s, representing all sectors of the fishing industry, in order to increase stakeholders’ involvement. Besides, RACs act as an advisory body to the Commission. Yet, science-based management recommendations should become legally binding in the allocation of TACs so as to stop political debates and interests and highlight the importance of scientifically based recommendations for sustainable fishing activities. Furthermore, the EU has launched an Action Plan for the battle against IUU fishing, which considerably contributes to the excessive depletion of fish stock. Stricter control and enforcement procedures will be employed by the newly established Community Fisheries Control Agency which will undertake direct inspections on vessels and assure the correct implementation of EU regulations and catch allowances. These measures give a promising impression in trying to solve the tragedy of the commons.

Due to the fact that fisheries are common property, in most fisheries ineffective strategies for regulating access can lead to situations where the level of fishing effort wastes society’s resources and overexploits species. There is a growing realisation that the only way of resolving this management problem is to create and assign appropriate access rights to wild stocks; a form of private ownership might be the solution to the problem. The absence of property rights is one key trigger for the overexploitation of fish resources. Declining quotas and the closure of fishing areas usually affect local small to medium-sized fishing companies, which would not be able to survive without state and EU subsidies. Property rights are a advantageous solution for these businesses because property rights confer privileges as well as responsibilities to the owner/fishermen. A private owner is prepared to restrict the number of fish getting caught to preserve enough fish for reproduction measures, so that there will be fish for the future.

Moreover, fish farming has become increasingly important in the European fishing industry. A large quantity of fish supplies originate from aquaculture and it is apparent that this sector will be intensified in the future. However, until present aquaculture is an 4 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" additional burden to fish resources as fish feed used in aquaculture is based on fish flour and fish oil. Scientists are eager to find plantbased substitutes to relieve fish stocks. Some aquaculture plants only breed fish for restocking purposes, which is a promising undertaking in supporting and assisting the avoidance of juvenile fish from getting caught and thereby alleviating pressure of fish stock. A second problem that is posed by aquaculture is environmental pollution through fish excreta. American scientists are experimenting and promoting a new form of aquaculture, which makes the fish excreta dilemma obsolete. Mariculture is high sea open ocean aquaculture in strong currents. This new project promises to be a lucrative as well as environmentally friendly alternative to supplement the fishing industry.

The following pages give a detailed analysis of the arising problems in the Common Fisheries Policy and the state of European fisheries in general. Major problems are outlined and suggested solutions have been critically analysed, commented and sometimes modified.

Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 5

–  –  –

Environmental and ecological effects of overfishing Marine fish stocks have by tradition been regarded as a common good and hence been treated as common property. Common property resources are subject to economic problems in the long run such as overexploitation and industrial/economic waste, which usually results in biological damage to the marine ecosystem.

Overfishing and the resulting depletion of future fish stock is a type of negative externality often referred to as the Tragedy of the Commons3. This is also the case in the European Union which has introduced the Common European Fisheries Policy (CFP) in the seventies as a result of international disagreements and modifications in the fishing sector. The CFP was established in the hope of managing fish stocks and community catches successfully4.

The recent CFP reform of 2003 highlighted four main challenges:

"the conservation and management of marine resources, relations agreements with non-EC-member countries and international organisations, structural measures and the common market organisation for fishery and aquaculture"5. Whereby the major task the EU and the CFP should concentrate on and try to resolve is the most dramatic problem facing fish, often described as: The Tragedy of the Commons, i.e. alleviating the fishing pressure on fish resources. The Tragedy of the Commons or simply the overexploitation of natural resources can also be explained as follows: It happens because people think they can take a limitless 3 Externalities can have a positive or a negative effect. A positive externality implies that both parties concerned, the person responsible for the externality and the one who is affected, have a beneficial outcome of it. A negative externality always initiates damage to the affected person.

4 More details can be found in the following chapters.

5 http://europa.eu.int/comm.

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