Reforming the Common Fisheries Policy

Reforming the Common Fisheries Policy

Jill Wakefield

This book takes a critical view of the policy and law governing EU marine fisheries and the effect of the 2013 reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). Reforms to the CFP are impeded by Treaty-guaranteed concessions, exemptions from general environmental legislation and the Court of Justice’s creation of principles unique to the sector. The author discusses how damaging effects of fishing could be ameliorated if the Court were to align fisheries principles with general principles of law, and considers the institutional and regulatory frameworks needed to encourage prudent resource use.

Chapter 10: Change for sustainability

Jill Wakefield

Subjects: environment, energy policy and regulation, environmental law, environmental politics and policy, law - academic, environmental law, maritime law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy


The CFP was created as an adjunct to Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy and did no more than comply with the minimal requirements of the LOSC. That it started in such a fashion is, perhaps, unsurprising, but that it continues to the present day in the same largely unreconstructed form is, truly, quite extraordinary. Instead of instituting a user-based regime, the combination of the principles of sustainable exploitation and relative stability have led to the maximisation of fish catch being entrenched in CFP policy with little regard to the sustainability of resources, ecosystems or future interests. Exploitation under the CFP is ostensibly qualified by the requirement for sustainability. However, the application of the precautionary approach to determine sustainable exploitation has resulted in fishing up to the very boundary of overexploitation. No margin of error is tolerated as the industry exploits without regard for regeneration, frequently tipping the resource into unsustainability. This state has been permitted to continue even as the EU has proclaimed its commitment to sustainable development. Redressing the situation may seem impossible because the CFP has just undergone a major review wherein it was decided to retain the current principles of fishing. However, there are changes that can be instituted that would facilitate the move towards the sustainability the Union intends, and these require no amendment to the Basic Fisheries Regulation or any other legislative instrument.

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