In December 2002, the Council reached agreement on the three legislative Common Fisheries Policy reform proposals, concerning the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources (Regulation 2371/2002), structural aid under the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (Regulation 2369/2002), and emergency aid to support vessel decommissioning (Regulation 2370/2002). The agreement followed several years of consultations with key stakeholders, and several months of intensive discussion and negotiation within the Council.
At the heart of the Commission proposals, issued in May 2002, was the desire to introduce a more coherent fisheries management system, combining traditional fisheries management tools (catch limits, gear restrictions, etc) with a more effective fleet policy to ensure a balance between fishing effort and resource availability, and economic incentives contributing to these aims rather than undermining them. The main instrument for integrating these measures was to be long-term stock management plans. These would also secure greater stability for the sector and reduce the risk of stock collapse, while moving away from the highly political yearly negotiations on catch limits. EU fisheries policy was also to take greater account of the ecosystems of which commercial fish stocks are part.
While the proposals were well received by many, with environmental interests notable amongst them, they did not receive universal support. In order to secure agreement, significant compromises were made in many areas, including fleet policy, the use of subsidies and the introduction of management planning. This briefing assesses the final reform package, indicating the extent of progress made, compared with agreed EU objectives on capacity, subsidies and the ecosystem approach.