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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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The aquaculture sector is already a big branch of industry which is valued at € 2.5 billion per year63. But it still needs to experience a boost in growth. The depleted stocks in EU waters can no longer respond to consumer demands. However, aquaculture has also put a strain on fish resources until now. Therefore, the EU should encourage and financially support research projects for fish flour and fish oil substitutes. In 2002, the Commission presented a Strategy for the sustainable development of European Aquaculture in which it outlined the future prospects and plans for the EU aquaculture sector64. The new strategy mainly addresses sustainable growth rather than sustainable development measures. Thus, it was envisaged to increase employment numbers by 8 000 to 10 000 fulltime jobs between 2003 and 2008 and a growth rate of 4% every year. This reform proposal is for once a positive prospect in a reform process which generally generates unemployment and shortage measures. Fishermen who are being dismissed could transfer for example to the aquaculture sector. The other main objective is to ensure healthy, safe and good quality products. Until 63 IEEP, A Strategy for the sustainable development of European Aquaculture, Briefing No.6, London, October 2002, www.ieep.org.uk.

64 Ibid.

36 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" present, unpleasant news about the use of antibiotics and hormones in fish farming have caused concerns amongst consumers. New clean farming technologies for both the consumer and the environment will be introduced in order to increase confidence in farming products and promote an environmentally friendly industry65.

Environmental Protection

The environment plays a key role in the fishing industry. A damaged marine eco-system would endanger the whole fisheries sector. The protection and conservation of marine resources are obviously of significant importance because there cannot be a fishing industry without fish. However, other environmental factors play a role. Article 6 of the EC Treaty requires "environmental considerations to be integrated into the definition and implementation of Community policies, as a means of delivering a sustainable development"66. All factors which could contribute to imbalances in the marine eco-system and habitat need to be assessed and solutions are to be found in order to prevent environmental long term damages, perhaps by introducing an ecosystem based management approach established on scientific recommendations and knowledge.

Management measures on fishing conducts and harvesting activities for sustainable fishing and conservation for fish stock are equally as important as the improving fishing techniques67. These should for example include the use of selective fishing methods, the reduction of fishing capacity and effort, management plans and the recording of bycatch and discards. So far, vessels are still operating with damaging catching techniques such as the use of driftnets, 65See Chapter 8.1 Aquaculture for further details.

66 IEEP, Action plan to integrate environmental protection requirements into CFP, Briefing No.4, London, May 2002.

67 Aquaculture activities can also pose serious environmental threats

–  –  –

which are a threat to the marine environment. Driftnets destroy important marine habitat, especially on the sea grounds.

Furthermore, they are capable of catching a range of non target species such as sea birds or seals68. Bottom trawls, drift nets and similar damaging fishing gear cannot be entirely prohibited but certain areas should be closed for the use of these fishing techniques.

The Commission also wants to establish plans in order to reduce bycacthes and discards in EU waters which are harmful to the marine biodiversity. The activities contribute to a large extent to the problem of the overexploitation of marine resources. Thus, nonselective fishing gear and the discarding of valuable fish resources are responsible for the collapse of worldwide fish stocks, too.

Bycatch and discards are clearly not only problematic in the European fishing dimension, they occur in worldwide fisheries industry69. The FAO estimates that additional to the 85 million tonnes of fish landings worldwide another 20 million tonnes of byctach consisting of sea mammals, sea birds and invertebrates can be counted. The bycatch is later thrown back into the seas (either already dead or dying) which is called discards70. Living discards have no survival chance as in most cases they are severely injured.

It is widely acknowledged that discards in the context of fisheries are damaging for the environment but they also contain economic consequences and harm other branches of industry. For example, bycatch and discards negatively affect the tourism industry of various areas. Approximately 7 500 pork whales fall victims to the fishing techniques for cod and turbot in the North Sea and between 10 and 12 million sharks die every year as a result of bycatch and discard activities71.

68 WWF, Bycatch_Brief, Brussels, March 2004.

69 2.5% of New Zealand’s sea lions perish in tuna driftnets and up to 30 000 individuals of the turtle family die each year as bycacth.

70 WWF, Millionengrab Meer, Ökonomische und ökologische Auswirkungen von Beifängen und Rückwürfen in der Fischerei, Frankfurt am Main, WWF, Dezember 2002, p. 4.

71 Ibid.

38 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" This has fatal socio-economic consequences, which are generally forgotten and not taken into account. Many tourists are attracted by an area due to the natural attractions it offers such as whales, seals or sharks. With the killing of these mammals as a result of damaging fishing techniques and discards the tourism industry in that particular area will experience an economic slowing down and reduction. This in turn also negatively affects employment in this sector such as hotels and others. Following an ICES report of 2002, it has been established that of 2.5 million tonnes of catches in the North Sea in 2002, 550 000 tonnes of bycatch were thrown back into the sea72. Due to the fact that nearly all species in the North Sea are endangered and depleted, these discards directly threaten the existing and future stock.

Bycatch and discards also include young and juvenile fish which are in fact valuable offspring and which present the future resource for fisheries. Although the harvesting of baby fish is prohibited, many juvenile fish which have not yet reached the age of reproduction get involuntarily caught in nets with too tiny mesh sizes and pointlessly die in large amounts. Furthermore, with the loss of juvenile fish a guarantee for future stock and sustainable resources is endangered and the fishing industries loose both their product and their capital. This economic value of the loss is difficult to assume because bycatch and discards are not registered in any books. This however should be implemented in the interest of scientific research and the fishing industry itself. Until now it has not been possible to calculate the amount of losses and the ecological and environmental effects and cost of discards due to the lack of information. All facts are pure assumptions. Moreover, it is impossible to scientifically forecast the future of marine resources if the recording of bycatch and discards is not incorporated and successfully implemented into new reform plans and management measures.

A change in the present quota system would also facilitate the reduction of discards. The present management system allows fishermen to catch a limited amount (quota) of certain species. This

72 www.ices.dkEurope and the "Tragedy of the Commons" 39

inevitably incorporates the catching of other species which have to be thrown back into the waters because of absent fishing rights.

Several solutions may be found for this problem: first the right to also land bycatch species which could be utilized for either commercial use or for aquaculture feed production. Secondly, areas with large quantities of juvenile fish require a time-limited closure and fishing ban in order to protect them from becoming discards.

Lastly, financial aid should be given to the output/promotion of sustainable fishing techniques; selective fishing techniques which are environmentally friendly and not damaging to the biodiversity (i.e.: that do not destroy coral reefs or plough sea grounds.) Non selective fishing techniques may have a high profitability from a business management standpoint for the individual fisherman, however, due to bycatch and overexploitation of resources the external costs for the society are very elevated. With the use of selective fishing techniques on the other hand, individual profitability may be low but the external costs would also be minimised to a large extent and thus increase profitability of the overall national economy73. Selective fishing gear is therefore urgently needed in order to guarantee harvesting possibilities and to secure income potential for sustaining and enhancing the industries capital (in our case fish stock (natural capital)). Until present, fishermen unfortunately did not have the incentive to use sustainable fishing gear. Due to the reduction of marine resources in recent years prices for fish have risen in order balance out the losses for fishermen and the industry. Growing prices reflect the scarcity of resources on the one hand but also lead to an even greater exploitation of stocks. As already mentioned the short term economic benefit optimization is what counts.

The socio-economic factors and external costs on employees are not to be underestimated. Discards are a negative external effect of the economic activity of the fisheries sector which lead to external costs. Negative external effects have an important economic 73 WWF, Millionengrab Meer, Ökonomische und ökologische Auswirkungen von Beifängen und Rückwürfen in der Fischerei, op. cit., p.


40 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" implication and reduce the overall economic outcome and have to be faced by the general public74. Social and economic costs of the collapse of a certain fishing economy are carried by the public.

Furthermore, the public also has to face upcoming economic costs resulting of overexploitation and the depletion of fish stocks.

Involvement of Stakeholders

The Commission acknowledges the importance of transparency and consultations with the industry in developing control measures and proposes a closer cooperation with RACs in achieving this. There has long been strong criticism on behalf of the industry that decisions and fisheries management are too centralised, top-down and do not reflect the actual needs of sustainable management75. By means of establishing Regional Advisory Councils the Commission wants to increase stakeholder’s involvement at regional and local level in the decision making process especially decisions concerning management and conservation measures. RACs are composed of representatives of all parties with an interest in fishing management in a given area76, including environmental and sustainable conservation measures77. Although Advisory Councils conduct their work and research independently they run under the authority of EU institutions and their main task is to advise the Commission and Member States on matters of sustainable management in specific areas. It should be stressed that RACs are only advisory bodies which can make recommendations or which the Commission may consult if it wishes. The advantage with 74 Ibid., p. 7.

75 Magnor NERHEIM, The new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP):

Towards sustainable management and a profitable fisheries sector?, op.

cit., p. 33.

76 Fishermen, representatives from processing industry, marketing, harbour management, aquaculture etc.

77 IEEP, Proposal on the Conservation and Sustainable Exploitation of

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Regional Advisory Councils is that they are capable of making precise suggestions for CFP legislation proposals by the Commission based on scientific research and relating to the condition of fish stock in their area. If their advice is being used or followed within the CFP framework is not guaranteed. Yet, if all RACs are able to give reliable consensus-based scientific and environmental recommendations on the enhancement of fisheries management neither the Commission nor the Council will oppose or reject these. It is more efficient and most of all more reliable to take RACs comments into consideration because they are small groups focused on certain areas. The Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture however will not loose their function;

they will be assisted by RACs in the collection of viable data.

Furthermore, it is envisaged to stop the highly political debate and annual horse-trading on catch limits of MS, thus depoliticising the EUs fisheries management and to base the setting of TACs on scientific research and recommendations. This approach would certainly be an additional assistance in achieving the move towards more sustainable fishing practices. RACs are not new management systems or regional bodies which should reinvent the CFP. Their task is to conduct research and formulate advice and recommendations in consensus with other RACs which are then to be adopted by the Council and the Commission.

The international dimension

The community fleet is one of the largest fishing fleets in the world with currently 90.000 vessels78; a significant part of its fishing sector depends on access to non-Community resources. Therefore bilateral and multilateral agreements with third non-EC-member countries had to be established to allow the EC fleet (in particular the deep-sea fishing fleet) to enter international waters and set quotas for allowable catches. It also became necessary because Too many vessels for the scarcity of fish resources, http://europa.eu.int, www.ies.be/research/fisherires.html 42 Europe and the "Tragedy of the Commons" distant fishing vessels from the community lost access to their traditional fishing areas following the extension of EEZs in some cases up to 200 nautical miles in the 1970s. This had a drastic impact on fisheries as 90% of exploitable fish resources fell under the jurisdiction of coastal states79. The international dimension of the CFP has therefore attained greater importance. It should be noted that almost 60% of the fish consumed in the EU comes from

these third-countries. There are currently three kinds of agreements:

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