Europêche welcomes move for a full-time Fisheries Commissioner for Europe

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has committed to create a dedicated Fisheries Commissioner if she is re-elected.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

Photo: Europêche.

As the European elections approach, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has pledged to appoint a full-time Commissioner for fisheries, if re-elected.

This announcement has been welcomed by Europêche, the principal trade body for the European fishing sector, which says it hopes the new Commissioner will balance biodiversity conservation, sustainable resource use, and food security.

Currently the responsibility for fisheries falls under the remit of the European Commisioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius, but Europêche argues that a standalone commissioner focused only on fisheries is needed, reflecting the strategic importance of the sector in Europe.

Europêche welcomes move for standalone EU Fisheries Commissioner

"Fishers provide one of the healthiest animal proteins with one of the smallest carbon footprints. They contribute to meeting the growing world demand for food," said Europêche President Javier Garat, in a press release.

"Fisheries is therefore a strategic sector for our society and one of the few exclusive competences of the EU. The EU must therefore prioritize support for its fishing sector to encourage the younger generation to enter this profession and to sustain rural coastal community areas," he continued.

"In this context, we appreciate von der Leyen’s political commitment to creating a stand-alone portfolio on fisheries in the next European Commission," Garat added.

The trade body emphasized the importance of integrating fishing sector representatives into EU policymaking, and elevating food production and sovereignty to the Vice-Presidency level within the Commission.

"A Commissioner for Fisheries is fundamental, but it is equally important to place food production and food sovereignty high in the Commission’s structure at the Vice-Presidency level. In a political reality where the reduction of dependencies from third countries is very high on the agenda, this only makes sense."

Need for a better balance in sustainable development of fisheries, says Europêche

The current Commission structure groups environment, oceans, and fisheries under one portfolio, but according to Europêche, combining all of this under one remit within the Commission "has failed to adequately address the balance between the pillars of sustainable development."

The trade body points out the numerous challenges faced by the EU's fishing industry in recent years, including Brexit, COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, rising fuel costs, climate change, fleet decarbonization, and generational renewal.

"On top of that, fishers had to put up with excessive EU regulations, unfair fishing area closures and unjustified fishing bans proposed by the Commission," Europêche argues.

"As a result, the EU's fleet size decreased by 28% over the past 20 years, and its seafood self-sufficiency has been declining since 2018. All while the EU continues to support seafood imports from third countries with increasing tax exemptions and many of these imports do not adhere to the same sustainability standards required of EU fishers," the organization states.

Trade body calls for financial support for carbon transition - and less red tape

Europêche thus calls for balanced legislation and financial support to aid the fisheries sector's transition towards carbon neutrality, urging the new Commission to conduct a comprehensive impact assessment of all fisheries policies related to the Green Deal.

"While monitoring and reporting of fishing activities are necessary, the excessive administrative burden generated should be reduced and streamlined. Ambitious goals should be achieved through technological innovations, not bans," Garat concluded.

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