Commission suggests reviewing overcapacity assessment
By Per Yann Le Floc’h | Monday 09 July 2012
Overcapacity (fishing capacity higher than fishing opportunities) remains one of the main obstacles to achieve sustainable fisheries. Although significant improvements were noted, the lack of precision in the 2010 reports by the member states on the state of the capacities continues to be a strong preoccupation for the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). A European Commission report, published on 9 July, highlights the recurrent problems in the evaluation of fishing capacities, which slows down the rhythm of the EU’s overcapacity reduction.
(1) is based on the reports which the member states have to hand in each year to the Commission. Many member states concluded that a decreased capacity would help to improve the biological and economic sustainability of fishing activities. But in order to reduce capacity, fleets depend largely on public subsidies, which favour the temporary or permanent withdrawal of vessels.
The main problem stems from the assessment techniques used by the member states. Out of 22 concerned member states, five achieved full marks for including the Commission’s guidelines, such as return on investments, full time employment, catch per unit effort and biological and economic indicators. Only an estimated 15 gave an overall opinion on whether their fleet was in balance with its fishing opportunity in 2010. Thus, although a growing number of member states applied the Commission services’ guidelines and submitted their reports on time, improvements are still needed in order to draw a relevant overview of the balance between fishing capacity and fishing opportunities. The Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) concludes that balance cannot be assessed through the means used by the member states, and that qualitative and descriptive assessments of the degree of balance between fleet capacity and fishing opportunity are only useful when based on evidence.
Moreover, the Commission notes that the data on nominal fleet reduction provide very little information as far as the real question of overcapacity is concerned. The report – which presents the situation country by country – shows that in 2010 the EU’s fishing fleet was made up of 78,831 vessels, and has decreased by 0.96% since then. But the inability to capture technological progress makes formal compliance with capacity limits almost meaningless.
Furthermore, a combination of low-activity vessels, excessive fishing pressure and poor economic performance indicates an excess of capacity. A consistent approach on how to judge the capacity of inactive vessels to be more or less “ready to fish” needs to be adopted. Lastly, the Commission concludes that despite the use of better indicators, the current capacity limitations have become ineffective in dealing with overcapacity.(1) COM(2012)368, available at
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