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date: 04 August 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is rooted in the Treaty of Rome. After its completion in 1983, the policy framework was gradually reformed through decennial reviews in 1993, 2003, and 2014. Due to geopolitical, physiographic, and historical reasons, the EU implementation of the CFP is most developed in the North Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, and the Baltic Sea, and less developed in the Mediterranean and Black Sea. However, the CFP applies throughout European Union (EU) waters, which that are treated as a “common pond.” The CFP has been heavily contested since its introduction, and over long periods was characterized as a management system in crisis. Historically, the CFP has arguably struggled to perform and the policy’s ability to meet its objectives has not uncommonly been undermined by factors such as internally contradictory decisions and inefficient implementation. Since the turn of the century, the policy has changed its course by incrementally institutionalizing principles for a more environmentally orientated and scientifically based fisheries management approach. In general, in the latest decade, fisheries have become increasingly sustainable in both environmental and economic terms. An increasing number of fish stocks under the CFP are being exploited at sustainable levels—a development that is likely to continue, as fish stocks are coming to be more commonly managed along the lines of science-based multi-annual management plans. Consequently, many fishing fleets, particularly those deployed in northern waters, have shown good economic performance in recent years. This development has been further facilitated by the introduction of market-based management principles; in most member states these have been implemented by granting de facto ownership to fishing rights for free in the name of ecological and economic sustainability. This has, however, in many cases also led to huge wealth generation for a small privileged group of large-scale fishers at the expense of small-scale fisheries and smaller fishing communities, as well as society at large; this situation has led to calls for both a fairer distribution of fishing rights—to protect the small-scale sector—and for a resource rent or exploitation fee to be collected for the benefit of society at large, which is the true owner of fishing resources. Consequently, social sustainability, understood as the improved well-being of fishing communities and a fairer sharing out of the benefits derived from fisheries resources, should be a subject for the CFP to consider in the future.

Keywords: Common Fisheries Policy, total allowable catch, fisheries management, multi-annual plans, landing obligation, regionalization, Advisory Councils, ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management, International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, DG MARE, European Union politics

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