UK Politics

EU fisheries policy 'a failure', concludes UK review

Fishing boat Image copyright Getty Images

The EU's Common Fisheries Policy failed to achieve its central objectives, the government's review of the balance of power between the UK and the EU has concluded.

Those submitting evidence to the review "overwhelmingly" felt it had not successfully maintained fish stocks, the government said.

This had prompted "significant debate on how well the UK's national interest is served" by the policy, it added.

But recent reforms had helped, it said.

The government began an audit of all the policy areas over which the EU institutions exercise power in July 2012, consulting widely with organisations and individuals with an interest in each policy area, and has published its findings in phases since July 2013.

The latest batch of reports focused on fisheries, agriculture, human rights, social cohesion, energy, the free movement of services, competition and consumer policy, financial services, the EU budget, and employment.

In its review of fisheries policy, the government noted that the UK had been calling for fundamental reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) for many years.


The European Commission has also highlighted failures associated with policing the policy, including overfishing and burdensome subsidies.

"To the general public, the spectacle of fish being thrown overboard dead or dying was a totemic sign of the CFP's failure to manage fisheries sustainably, and the failure of the EU political process to agree credible rules," the government said.

In May 2013, EU member state governments and the European Parliament reached a deal aiming to allow nations to reallocate fish quotas from large operators to small in a drive to reduce the damage caused by overfishing.

They had agreed earlier in the year to end the policy of discarding unwanted fish.

However, the report did not find a consensus on how to reform the system further.

Some organisations had argued in favour of returning fisheries policy back to the national level, it said.

But it concluded: "The majority of respondents, though not all, supported some form of supranational management of fisheries due to the transboundary nature of fish stocks."

Both the Institute for European Environment Policy and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations had suggested that good decision-making on fisheries was possible at the EU level - despite the failings of the past.

There was also a broad welcome for recent reforms that will involve more decisions on fisheries being taken at a regional level, the report said.

"Many respondents thought devolving more decisions to the regional level would enable more responsive fisheries management," it explained.

Related Topics

More on this story