Address at Shanghai Fishery University



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Shanghai, China, 10 November 2007

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted, as the Commissioner responsible for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs of the European Union, to be present in the vibrant and dynamic city of Shanghai with its important maritime past. It is a particular honour, also, to address this gathering at the prestigious Shanghai Fishery University.

China and the European Union have close ties to the oceans and seas that surround us. Our maritime sectors not only contribute significantly to our economies - they also play a key role in addressing some of the global challenges we face. Primary amongst these is climate change and the need to preserve the sustainability of the oceans. This is closely followed by the need for secure energy supplies and the necessity to manage the rapid expansion of international trade carried out by sea as a result of globalisation.

With these different, and at times conflicting, issues it is only natural that there will sometimes be difficult questions to bear in mind when developing our maritime sector. For example, what balance can be found between exploiting maritime resources to boost our economic development on the one hand and yet secure the long-term sustainability of these resources on the other? How can we make the best use of the oceans and seas to enhance our economic development? And more specifically, to take one example, how should fisheries activities be regulated so as to ensure a prosperous fisheries sector based on the sustainable use of fish resources?

Given that these questions are not unique to any one nation or any one coastal area, I believe that Europe and China have much to gain from sharing experiences with each other. China and Europe are the world’s leading players in fisheries and we therefore have a joint responsibility for promoting the responsible and sustainable governance of maritime resources, not only in our own waters but also at a global level.

This sense of responsibility explains the motivation behind my visit to China in my capacity as a European Commissioner. I am happy to say that I have already had a number of extremely enlightening talks in Beijing with Ministers and senior officials. These have proved to be an excellent start for what I augur will become a regular, high-level dialogue on maritime matters between the People’s Republic of China and the European Union.

In this sense, I am particularly happy to have this opportunity to present you an overview of European fisheries policy and maritime policy. I also very much welcome the opportunity this visit provides me with to learn more about Chinese views on both these areas and what China's own experience in these fields has been.

Allow me to start by giving you an overview of the European Union's fisheries policy.

The European Union - made up of 27 Member States which range from Ireland in the west to Bulgaria in the east, and Sweden in the North to my home country, Malta, in the south - conducts a Common Fisheries Policy. Out of the 27 member states, 22 of them have a coast that lies along one of Europe’s two oceans and four seas. These 22 nations not only have their own domestic fishing fleet, many also operate in the waters of other nations and on the high seas. The European Union's fishing fleet is the third largest in the world and Europe itself, is the world’s largest market for fish products. In fact, despite substantial domestic catches, the EU imports between 60 and 70% of the fish it consumes from other countries, including China.

The European Commission, as the executive arm of the Union, is in charge of regulating and supervising fisheries policy across its member states. It also represents the EU at an international level, particularly when concluding fisheries partnership agreements or entering into negotiations for fishing possibilities with third countries. For their part, Member States are responsible for the implementation of the relevant European legislation and for controlling the fishing activities of the vessels that fly their flag and/or that operate in their waters.

The core objective of the European Fisheries Policy is sustainability - in environmental, economic and social terms. Securing sustainable fisheries in Community waters, as well as in long-distance waters where European fleets operate, is the guiding principle for all actions developed within the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy, or the CFP as it is more commonly referred to.

In the forty or so odd years since the inception of the CFP, EU fishing power has grown enormously due to technological advancement. While this is good in itself, it has also meant that we have outstripped the yield which we can reasonably harvest from our fish stocks. In this sense, the industry has been a victim of its own success. This is not just a European phenomenon; it is one being experienced the world over.

This fact has meant that our policy has had to be reformed. This duly took place in 2002 when a number of policy changes were undertaken.

The first thing that the CFP reform brought about was an improvement in the overall sustainability of European fisheries. This has been achieved by focusing on more long-term management, using the so-called Maximum Sustainable Yield, or MSY, approach. In a situation where four-fifths of European fish stocks are over-fished, a central element of the EU's strategy is to restore the sustainability of our fisheries and thereby also, the competitiveness of our fleets. The MSY approach also brings us in line with the commitment to sustainability made at the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg in 2002. I am happy to say that, despite a slow start, there are now clear signs that this long-term approach is starting to bear fruit.

We certainly still have a long way to go to implement this approach across the board. However, there are already signs that things are changing and that this is a process that is receiving more and more acceptance by stakeholders. There are also improvements in the biological status of certain fish stocks which show that our efforts, and short-term sacrifices, are paying off. Such tangible evidence reinforces our determination to continue the process of rebuilding stocks until all our fisheries are truly sustainable.

Although this may mean less fishing in the short term, I am convinced that it is the way towards securing stable catches, better employment prospects in the fisheries sector, better profits for the industry and thus brighter prospects for all, in particular in coastal communities that are often extremely dependant on fisheries.

Another pillar of the 2002 reform concerns improved decision-making and governance, particularly with respect to the involvement of stakeholders. Stakeholders include fishermen, the processing industry, scientists and other specialists working in the field, be it environmentalists or other organisations. These stakeholders come together in so-called Regional Advisory Councils that group together a broad range of interests within a certain region or within a certain kind of fishery. The Regional Advisory Councils have proved to be an excellent means to increase consultation between the sector and the decision-makers and in many ways have proved to be instrumental in policy-making by ensuring that a wide cross-section of views are taken into account.

Another aspect of the reform that deals with the question of governance, is the ambitious multi-annual action plan on simplification that we have embarked upon with a view to reducing bureaucracy and unnecessary administrative costs and to making CFP rules better understood and easier to implement.

A further important change concerns the structural aid given to the fisheries sector under the new European Fisheries Fund. This fund was set up last year to support the industry as it adapts its fleet and fishing efforts to the available fisheries resources. It also provides aid to the other branches of the industry, including aquaculture, to make it more competitive and to promote measures to protect and enhance the environment. The European Fisheries Fund which will run for seven years from 2007-13 has a total budget of around 3.8 billion EUR.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is obvious that it makes little sense to spend time and effort on a policy to enhance sustainable fisheries, if there is no compliance with the rules. This is why control and enforcement are a priority in our work. Long-term sustainability and responsible fishing can only yield results if illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, so-called IUU fishing, is eliminated in both EU waters and beyond.

We believe that any policy against illegal fishing can only be efficient if it is based on a comprehensive approach encompassing all the activities linked to such practices: including harvesting, transhipment, processing, landing and trading. To this end, the Commission recently proposed a package of new political and legislative measures aimed at eliminating illegal fishing activities. The idea is to attack the driving-force behind them: short-term profit. Our idea is to allow access to the EU market only to those fisheries products that have been certified as legal by the concerned flag state or exporting state. It is our intention to set up a black-list of those vessels, and take trade measures against those states, which turn a blind eye to IUU activities. Sanctions will also be used as a deterrent for those engaging in IUU activities in EU or other waters.

The Commission also proposes to strengthen EU efforts in the international arena. Within international organisations, notably the UN and the FAO, as well as within Regional Fisheries Management Organisations, we will continue to initiate and support vigorous action designed to curb illegal fisheries activities. Co-operation with our international partners, such as China, is of course a key element in these efforts to eliminating this threat to sustainability.

Another important issue concerns the implementation of the Resolution on Destructive Fishing Practices adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the end of last year. The EU played a leading role in promoting this Resolution and is fully committed to translate it into concrete and effective action. The Commission has, in fact, just recently presented a strategy for protecting vulnerable deep sea ecosystems from damaging fishing practices as well as a proposal to ban the use of harmful bottom gears by EU vessels on the high seas.

I am pleased to see that Regional Fisheries Management Organisations have been made responsible for implementing the UN Resolution in their respective areas of competence. The European Commission represents the EU in 13 such organisations covering the world's oceans. It will continue its co-operation with our international counterparts, like China, in those organisations to make sure that appropriate measures are taken, and that interim arrangements are implemented, to the same effect, in those areas where such organisations have not yet been established.

Another issue where the EU and China share common ground is in tuna fisheries. We have an excellent bilateral co-operation in Regional Fisheries Management Organisations regulating tuna fisheries where we often share common approaches to fisheries management and control issues. Here, our common objective is to promote and strengthen international co-operation, especially to further the sustainable and responsible development of world tuna fisheries. This includes, in particular, effectively addressing illegal fishing.

I should also like to say a few words on the EU's bilateral Fisheries Partnership Agreements that I mentioned earlier.

These Agreements are very important to the EU and to our partners around the world, ranging from Western Africa to the Indian Ocean, from the North Atlantic to the South Pacific. At present the European Union has over twenty such agreements which provide access for around six hundred EU vessels to fish resources which individual partner countries do not themselves exploit. In the past, the EU has been criticised for applying a policy of "pay, fish and go" in developing countries since the agreements were thought to not sufficiently take into account the environmental, economic and social needs of these countries. This is no longer the case today. New Fisheries Partnership Agreements focus on cooperation to promote sustainable fishing, just as in our own waters, with a significant part of the total EU financial contribution being allocated to support the national fisheries policy of the partner country.

Before I turn from fisheries to maritime policy, I would like to add a few words on aquaculture, a huge industry in China and also an important priority for the EU.

The aquaculture industry is growing, and benefits from many favourable factors, such as a strong seafood market, advanced public research, qualified and trained entrepreneurs and suitable climatic conditions. However, the sector also faces a number of challenges such as limitations of space, environmental impacts and the difficulty of remaining competitive. We are therefore currently preparing the ground for a thorough discussion, involving all stakeholders, on the further development of European aquaculture. It is essential that this development is sustainable, so that the gains from technological development are not offset by environmental degradation. I believe that this is a field where the EU and China stand to benefit enormously from co-operation and it is one where I encourage us to work closely together.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Allow me to now turn to my second area of responsibility: that of a maritime policy for the Union. This is a new field for the EU; one that we hope will be instrumental in bringing together, in an integrated manner, all policies affecting maritime activities. These range from shipping and shipbuilding to fisheries and aquaculture, coastal and maritime tourism to port services, energy extraction to transport, and so on.

Until now, the EU approach to each of these activities has been largely sector-driven. Policies have been developed on a sector-by-sector basis with little concern for how they inter-relate. Fishing and shipping, fish farming, energy extraction, marine tourism, infrastructural works along the coast; seabed mining and other activities are often planned in an uncoordinated manner. This has often meant that the impact of one on the other remains unacknowledged or that the marine environment is being placed increasingly under pressure. Such an approach has also often led to more and more competition for space, and in some cases to conflicts, between the various users of the sea.

The fact that practically all of the challenges that we face today - be it climate change, the need for more and better jobs or the myriad effects of globalisation - are also in one way or another dependant on our oceans and seas, means that the time has come for the maritime sector to be treated in a coherent and all-embracing manner.

This is essentially what has given rise to an integrated maritime policy for the Union.

We need a coherent response to the challenges faced by the maritime sphere. We need to avoid unintended and negative consequences from one maritime sector spilling over onto another. We need added value. Maritime activities must not only co-exist comfortably – we must also encourage them to flourish.

After an extensive year-long, public consultation which revealed strong stakeholder support for this comprehensive approach, the Commission has recently published its vision for a new integrated maritime policy. Together with a detailed action plan, this new policy sets out an ambitious work programme for the years ahead. A wide spectrum of actions are foreseen, ranging from maritime transport to the competitiveness of maritime businesses, employment, scientific research, fisheries and the protection of the marine environment. They also include surveillance and control measures.

We are well aware that such an endeavour will only succeed with the continued engagement and support of all those involved in the sector. We are determined to continue our work with all stakeholders including authorities at a European, national and regional level, in order to translate this vision into a reality.

We will also work at an international level as Europe shares its seas with more than a dozen third countries, and as we well know, the world's oceans know no boundaries. In much the same way as we already work closely with Canada, the USA and other maritime nations, we too hope to work in this field with China. We are firmly in favour of cooperation, both on a bilateral basis and within international organisations with a view to strengthening the rule-based global governance of the oceans. We are working, for example, to encourage the speedy ratification and implementation of international agreements in order to ensure fair competition between economic operators.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am convinced that there are plenty of opportunities for co-operation between China and the European Union. We share many interests and combine tremendous knowledge and experience in both fisheries and maritime affairs. I augur that we can share this knowledge for the benefit of all.

I am extremely pleased to experience the close relationship enjoyed by Europe and China and I therefore look forward to playing my own part in moving this relationship further forward in the fields of fisheries and maritime policy.

Thank you.


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