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LIFE renews its call for the European Commission to implement Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy to ensure fairness in fisheries. Photo: European Union

In an unwavering effort to promote fair fisheries and environmental sustainability, the Low Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE) organisation has renewed its call for the implementation of Article 17 of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

While LIFE acknowledges the legal complexities and ambiguous roles between the European Commission (EC) and Member States (MS) that have hindered progress, it insists on the crucial role Article 17 plays in achieving equitable fishing opportunities.

The Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) recently released a comprehensive report, STECF 23-17, analysing responses from 22 coastal EU Member States regarding the implementation of Article 17. The report, published at the end of 2023, provides a historical overview of fishing opportunity allocations within the EU and addresses the challenges faced in ensuring transparency and objectivity in MS allocation systems.

STECF’s findings highlight institutional inertia within member states’ fisheries administrations as a significant obstacle to implementing Article 17. Furthermore, the report notes that the lack of clarity in defining fishing opportunities in EU legal texts adds complexity to the process.

LIFE asserts that the current state of Article 17 appears designed to fail, citing institutional inertia, legal ambiguities, and the absence of clearly defined criteria and responsibilities as major impediments. The organisation emphasises the need to design criteria of environmental, social, and economic significance, accompanied by clear guidelines for application and delineated roles for both the EC and Member States.

Social data collection, mandated since 2018, is a critical component of Article 17, and STECF previously addressed the matter in its 2020 report (STECF 20-14). LIFE refers to its 2021 report, “How EU fishing can become Low Environmental Impact, Low Carbon and Socially just,” which already identified potential criteria for environmental, social, and economic considerations.

Despite the legal requirements and preliminary analyses, the wheels of change turn slowly, and for small-scale fisheries (SSF), the delay in justice becomes a denial. LIFE continues to advocate for urgent action, urging the EC and Member States to address the challenges and fulfill the potential of Article 17 for socially just, environmentally sustainable, and economically viable fisheries.


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