Target 4 of the EU Biodiversity Strategy states that
Achieve Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) by 2015. Achieve a population age and size distribution indicative of a healthy stock, through fisheries management with no significant adverse impacts on other stocks, species and ecosystems, in support of achieving Good Environmental Status by 2020, as required under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.
Summary of EU progress on reaching Target 4 on sustainable use of fisheries resources:
75% of assessed European fish stocks are overfished and fishing activities inflict widespread collateral damage on marine ecosystems, including seabirds and other marine wildlife. Excessive EU fleet capacity built and modernised with EU subsidies is one of the key problems.
The reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is an opportunity to rebuild EU fish stock, match EU fishing capacity to the resources available and promote and reward sustainable fishing practices, while eliminating the most damaging ones.
Positive developments towards Target 4:
- The Commission proposal for the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) includes a strong commitment to reach MSY by 2015.
- Some EU fish stocks are already being exploited at MSY rates: in 2011, 13 out of the 35 Atlantic stocks, 2 out of the 11 Baltic stocks and 11 out of the 61 Mediterranean stocks for which the MSY rate has been determined were assessed to be exploited at the MSY rate.
- The Commission is in the process of adopting an EU Plan of Action for reducing incidental catches of seabirds in fishing gears. Sea-birds & by-catch
- The Commission’s proposal for the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, provides opportunities for funding measures to support sustainable fisheries and aims to eliminate negative impacts on marine ecosystems and marine protected areas. More on Funding for Nature
- Ecological Quality Objectives (EcoQOs) for e.g. seabird distribution and abundance are being adopted through OSPAR and core indicators for biodiversity, including seabirds, are being adopted through HELCOM CORESET and used for Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) assessments.
Delays and missed opportunities towards Target 4:
- The Commission in its proposal on the CFP reform failed to include ambitious objectives and mechanism to stop by-catch of unwanted organisms and to promote low impact fishing and failed to present a credible policy for reducing the EU’s fleet capacity.
- In June 2012, EU Fisheries Ministers agreed less ambitious deadlines on aspects of CFP reform than proposed by the Commission, in particular on the issues of MSY and phasing out discards.
- The adoption of EU fisheries management plans is blocked due to the post-Lisbon interpretation of competences between the European Council and the European Parliament.
- EU Member States progress slowly in designating marine Natura 2000 sites. The process for regulating fisheries in those areas is complicated Management challenges on Dogger Bank SAC; More on nature conservation and the EU Biodiversity Strategy
- Member States fail to provide adequate and reliable data on fish stocks and other parts of marine ecosystems.
Counterproductive developments towards Target 4:
- Due to insufficient designation of Marine Natura 2000 sites, the proposal for a Maritime Spatial Planning Directive (due in the second half of 2012) risks increasing pressure on sensitive areas not yet protected.
- Most of the EU Member States supported an extremely weak Danish Presidency compromise text on the CFP regulation, which confirmed that within the European Council there is no appetite for an ambitious reform.
- In the context of MSFD implementation, EU Member States’ definition of Good Environmental Status (GES) and associated targets and indicators show very low levels of ambition and coordination. Target setting under the MSFD
Milestones – what needs to be achieved by 2014:
- EU Member States and the European Parliament supported an ambitious CFP reform to restore fish stocks and ensure minimisation of fisheries impact on marine ecosystems.
- The European Commission and EU Member States approved the framework for developing ecosystem based Multiannual Plans and are in the process of developing them for each fishery by 2015.
- EU Member States designated their marine Natura 2000 network, and are finalising the development of management plans. Marine Natura 2000 management
- EU Member States and the European Commission are implementing the EU Action plan for reducing incidental catches of seabirds, are collecting data on seabird by-catch and implementing proven mitigation measures in fisheries. BirdLife priorities for implementation of the Seabird by-catch Action plan
- EU Member States, in their programming documents for the EMFF, included support for marine protected areas and sustainable fishing methods.
- A new EU framework for data collection includes a strong system of penalties for non-compliance with a view to significantly step up data collection in fisheries including wider ecosystem data (such as for example on seabird by-catch).
- EU Member States set clear and ambitious targets for delivering Good Environmental Status under the MSFD and are finalising integrated transboundary monitoring programme of monitoring to deliver these at the regional and sub-regional level.