I have taken the initiative to convene a Ministerial Conference on the Future of Fisheries Partnership Agreements, which will take place tomorrow. The aim is to give the floor to the Ministers of our partner countries, who know better their situations and can express their expectations and their ambitions. I have also invited the European ministers and the Parliament.
We want to make sure that the fish stocks in all seas are healthy and productive. But our conservation efforts make little sense if we don’t make sure that the same commitment is taken at international level. And much remains to be done to apply the golden rule of sustainable fishing everywhere: almost 85 % of the world fish stocks, for which information is available, are reported as being fully exploited or overexploited.
So we need to project the principle of sustainability and its rules on the international arena.
The European Union has already fisheries partnership agreements with an important number of countries. They have in general a positive economic and social impact. Though, agreements need to be developed and improved.
First of all, we need to address the main goal of conservation. How can we make sure to be fishing exclusively the “surplus”? Local fishermen must have priority and only the fish that can be caught safely, on top of what their catches, should be allowed to be fished. We also need to ensure better compliance strengthening our fight against illegal fishing.
Secondly, it is in the common interest of both the European Union and partner countries that rules are transparent and applied in a fair way. How can we better ensure compliance and how can we prevent people from trying to circumvent the rules, for instance by reflagging vessels? Also, the balance between the financial contribution of the industry and the EU budget invested are all issues that need to be tackled.
Finally, we want to restructure the shape and nature of our financial support: how can we better adapt it to real needs and contribute to the wider EU development policy with targeted sectoral funding?
The answers that we are seeking to these questions will be the basis for creating a new generation of agreements. This is the way to go and it will be a fundamental element of the overall reform of the EU Common Fisheries Policy.