EAPO Europeche ocean governance

EAPO and Europeche have released a joint position paper on International Ocean Governance (IOC)

The European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) and Europêche have released a joint position paper on International Ocean Governance (IOC) in reply to the targeted consultation of the European Commission.

In the joint paper, they say that they are well aware of the importance of healthy oceans for the potential of EU maritime sectors which calls for the need of international ocean governance. 

“Biodiversity is the natural capital of the fisheries sector which is delivering ecosystem services that form the basis of our economy. Its deterioration will undoubtedly hamper the ability to continue to provide our sector with healthy resources on the long term, leading to a loss of wealth and employment, as well as a loss of high-quality animal protein with the lowest environmental impact. Integrated sustainable management is the best way to protect natural resources and safeguard socio-economic development. Therefore, international ocean governance should address environmental issues on a cross-sectoral basis, without framing environmentalists versus the industry, but ensuring an equal treatment to all maritime economic activities and a level playing field. Furthermore, development and food security considerations should be integrated into biodiversity objectives, and vice versa.”

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They believe that the current fisheries framework is efficient and effective enough to sustainably manage marine resources and to protect marine biodiversity. 

“More precisely, it manages the impacts of fisheries alone, with the European Union as a contracting party to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) having ratified the UN Fish Stocks Agreement as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Compliance Agreement. A new governing body for fisheries would jeopardise the great progress already accomplished by institutions set up under UNCLOS such as Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), Regional Seas Conventions (RSC) and EU Advisory Councils, and would go against the spirit of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by being overly broad and general. With the amount of RFMOs and other international fora in mind, it makes it hard to argue that the existing framework is incomplete. Yet, the sector sees the need to promote RFMOs for unregulated species and areas in the high seas, reinforce the role and binding nature of RFMOs, capacity building, data collection, integrated responses to ocean challenges and strive for 100% stock management in all seascapes. While it is true that global issues demand global action, the European Commission cannot seek its legitimacy using its exclusive competence for fisheries to regulate ocean issues which are much broader and therefore need integrated responses. When it comes to improvements, RFMOs need to be strengthened and promoted, inter-agency cooperation and cross-institutional dialogue should be promoted as well). Actions should be focused on areas rather than targets when assessing exerting human pressures. This is a straightforward way of having an integrated approach to maritime affairs and of an increasing global coherence of management measures.“

“The current structure is not the problem,” they claim. “It is more about the willingness of the countries to apply and respect the rules. States do not always find it in their interest to implement agreements or cannot afford it given that meaningful management has huge economic, social and political implications that should be taken into consideration. Nonetheless, the EU should focus precisely on this, on persuading countries to become party to relevant ocean instruments and implement them, and to use market access and trade agreements to promote the EU sustainability standards. 

“The EU has an important leader position when it comes to sustainable fisheries governance, and should foster and promote what has been achieved already internally beyond its borders. The leading by example approach of the EU on these questions shouldn’t translate into overregulation. EU measures should not put its own industry at a competitive disadvantage. 

“Given the EU’s prime position on the market for fisheries products, the tools to align our trading partners with our policies and principles when it comes to sustainability and ocean governance, are in the EU’s hands. With the above mentioned in mind, Europêche and EAPO feel that in order to uphold the objectives of the ocean governance pillars and in light of the EU Green Deal and its encompassing strategies, more should be done within the existing framework on:

  1. Management
  2. SDGs

3/. Level Playing Field

  1. MPAs
  2. Climate Change
  3. RFMOs
  4. IUU
  5. Decent Work and Safety
  6. SFPAs
  7. Data and Science
  8. Relevant Stakeholders
  9. Enforcement

They conclude by saying “While existing international regulations on oceans sustainability need to be enforced, the European fishing industry regards an additional ‘overarching body’ at UN level as an unproductive additional layer of legislation, especially for fisheries. Europêche and EAPO trust that you will take into account the above considerations.”

To read the Joint Position Paper click here.

Brian J McMullin Solicitors
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