Member States falling behind on Common Fisheries Policy implementation, new WWF report finds

Posted on 11 December 2018

EU Member States lagging behind on CFP implementation and likely to miss important 2020 deadlines
Brussels, Belgium – 11 December, 2018

Member States have had five years to implement measures within the latest version of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), but are still lagging behind and likely to miss important 2020 deadlines on biodiversity conservation and sustainable fisheries management. This is the finding of a new report launched by WWF today, presenting European and Member State decision-makers with a comprehensive and evidence-based critique on the implementation of key Articles of the CFP. 

Overall, Member State efforts to implement the CFP are deeply unsatisfactory and national ocean strategies have, thus far, missed the mark on provisions for sustainable fishing, healthy and resilient marine ecosystems and biodiversity conservation. The report includes individual data for each EU Member State. Only one out of 46 CFP actions assessed by WWF was accomplished by all Member States: establishing an administrative system for registering fishing vessels. Half of the actions (24) have only been partially accomplished, whilst the others have not been tackled to date. 

WWF also rated actions undertaken by the European Commission, and these findings show more encouraging efforts. The European Commission has achieved nearly half of the implementation actions for the CFP, earning 47% of the maximum score possible.

Samantha Burgess, Head of Marine Policy at WWF European Policy Office, said: “EU Member States have had ample time to implement the provisions of the reformed CFP, but have demonstrated an unacceptable lack of political will towards sustainable fisheries management. European fisheries are facing unprecedented challenges, with high levels of overfishing, destruction of marine habitats, impacts of climate change, with continued illegal activities and poor management of the fisheries sector. This destructive trend must urgently be reversed, especially in coastal communities where fisheries contribute to community livelihoods and food security. The EU must stand by its commitments to sustainable fisheries governance and protect the marine environment upon which its fisheries and coastal communities depend for survival.”

1 January 2019 is the deadline for full implementation of the Landing Obligation by all EU Member States, whereby fishing vessels are required to retain and bring to port all seafood catches to eliminate discarding. Analyses by WWF have found that EC-granted exemptions, allowing operators to discard up to 7% of their catches, have increased by 300% between 2017 and the end of 2018. Phasing-in implementation of the Landing Obligation to January’s fast approaching deadline has not reduced discarding, nor brought the much-needed changes to make fishing practices more sustainable. WWF therefore urges member states to invest EU fisheries funds in adopting technical solutions [1] that can increase selectivity and reduce unwanted catches.

In addition to the sustainable fishing objectives of the CFP, 2020 is the deadline for the EU to achieve its objective of Good Environmental Status in all European seas, accomplish four targets related to UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, and fulfill its commitment to the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11 to effectively protect and manage 10% of Europe’s marine areas. 

“The EU has repeatedly shown its dedication to supporting sustainable growth in our ocean, both internally and internationally, in its numerous declarations and commitments around a Sustainable Blue Economy,” continued Dr Burgess. “We are fortunate to have legislation in the EU that provides many critical stepping stones to support sustainable fisheries practices, nurture vibrant coastal communities and even contribute to food security on a global scale. The Member States and European Commission must stand by their promises and show that the EU is a world leader for ocean resilience, in time for the 2020 deadlines.”

Whilst the EU’s history of fishing beyond sustainable levels has made it difficult to reach the CFP objective of healthy fish and shellfish populations, the situation is starting to show improvement, particularly in some European sea basins. Europe’s position as a leading maritime power, together with its domestic and international commitments on sustainable development makes it a natural leader on the governance of global fisheries. However, without proper protection and effective management systems, Europe risks severe ecosystem damage, including but not limited to fish stock depletion, habitat loss and bycatch of endangered species. 

The pace of CFP implementation must increase with great urgency. Securing comprehensive fulfilment of the EU’s commitments to environmental protection and putting effective measures into action to address the wider management of European seas must be a priority for all Member States.


Notes to editors:

WWF has identified a list of priority recommendations to enhance progress towards sustainable fisheries management across European waters. These include:
  • Apply the Precautionary Approach consistently, as maintaining abundant fish populations is the most effective mechanism to increase marine ecosystem capacity and adapt to pressures from environmental changes and fisheries demand.
  • Align annual fishing opportunities with scientific recommendations for sustainable fishing mortality rates that will restore and maintain populations of fish stocks.
  • Accelerate implementation of ecosystem-based management by designing more fish stock recovery programmes.
  • Develop robust multiannual plans with clear time frames for all EU sea basins; these must apply an ecosystem-based approach to management with quantifiable targets based on the best available scientific evidence to achieve fishing mortality rates in line with maximum sustainable yield (MSY) by 2020.
  • Address challenges of enforcement and compliance with management plans that include cross-sector, multi-stakeholder and agency coordination; develop a culture of compliance by incentivising inclusive multi-stakeholder collaboration, together with knowledge exchange and timely sanctions for non-compliance.
  1. For over four years, WWF has worked in the EU-funded Minouw project where partners, scientists, fishers, NGOs and policy makers test and develop affordable and more selective fishing gear to minimise unwanted catches. WWF believes that the only viable solution is to improve fishing gear selectivity and to fish in areas that minimise unwanted catches. We therefore ask policy makers to support fishers through this important transition and make selectivity the priority for European fisheries. More information on WWF’s asks on the Landing Obligation can be found here.

Larissa Milo-Dale
Marine Communications Officer
+32 483 26 20 86