Members of the European Parliament are set to vote on the long-awaited reform of the Common Fisheries Policy on the 6th of February. The Policy has been largely reformed in the last two years to ensure that Total Allowable Catches are kept at sustainable levels and that wasteful discard of unwanted bycatch is monitored and regulated.
The main objective of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is to end overfishing and make fishing environmentally, financially, and socially sustainable. To achieve this, the Policy aims to bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels by setting fishing limits based on scientific advice, to sustain a stable and healthy sea food supply for the long term, and to bring new prosperity to the fishing sector without dependence on subsidies. The fisheries Committee of the European Parliament envisions a wide-scale application of the Policy from 2015 and a successful recovery in fish stocks by 2020.
Concerns have been voiced that the new Policy could result in job losses in the fishing industry. However, there is no doubt that uncontrolled fishing fleets have decimated fish populations in and beyond the European Union's seas. This has resulted in the loss of jobs and livelihoods for thousands of small and middle scale fishing communities across the coasts of Europe. A number of studies predict that the successful adoption of the reformed Policy will provide thousands of new jobs and financial recovery in these communities.
Sea turtles are a notable example of wildlife threatened by unregulated fisheries, and the progress of these reforms gives a welcomed hope for their conservation. A law-enforced use of turtle excluder devices in trawler nets on the US-based Atlantic fisheries since 1990 has resulted in a remarkable recovery of sea turtle populations in that region. Enhanced regulation of bycatch in Europe will give additional incentives in the fishing industry for the adoption of turtle excluder devices and circular hooks, which can significantly reduce sea turtle mortality at sea.