Original publication: March 2017
Author: Benoit CAILLART F&S Fisheries / Maritime Affairs
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Union Outermost Regions are affected by handicaps deserving implementation of specific measures according to Article 349 of the TFEU. This Initial Briefing aims at establishing the extent to which fleet management rules adopted under the Common Fisheries Policy take sufficiently account of the specificities of the fishing sector in Outermost Regions, and at identifying relevant measures that could support the development of the sector in these regions.
Situation of fishing fleets in Union Outermost Regions
In Outermost Regions (ORs), small-scale fishing vessels represent the overwhelming majority of the 4 500 fishing vessels registered in ORs regions. The percentage varies between 84% in Azores and 100% in both Martinique and Guadeloupe. However, small-scale fishing vessels constitute less than 60% of total fishing capacity expressed in kW in all ORs regions due to the presence of large scale fishing vessels in ORs fleets, except in Guadeloupe and Martinique where no such vessels are registered.
Over the 2005-2016 period, the number of fishing vessels decreased in all ORs. By Member State, highest decrease in the number of vessels are found for Portugal (-40%) and for Spain (-31%), but are somewhat more limited for France (-15%). However, the aggregate engine power of the fishing fleets increased in the ORs of France (+26%) and Portugal (+15%) as a consequence of increases of the average engine power of the vessels registered. In Canary Islands, aggregate fishing power decreased by 31%.
Small-scale vessels are newer than their Mainland counterparts in the ORs of France (18 years old vs 29 years old) and in Azores (25 years old vs 34 years old). However, in Canary Islands and in Madeira, small-scale vessels are older than their mainland counterparts, exceeding 40 years old on average.
The administrative situation of ORs fleets early 2016 indicates that all fleet segments in Portuguese ORs as well as the Guadeloupe small-scale segment are nearing the respective capacity limits set by the CFP Basic Regulation. Conversely, Martinique small-scale vessels and French Guiana small-scale vessels and shrimp trawlers, as well as Canary Islands large scale trawlers, are at less than 70% of their respective ceilings. Other segments in the Canary Islands are in-between these two administrative situations.
ORs fishing fleets target different resources, including inshore resources by the small scale fleets and offshore resources like tunas, small pelagics or deep sea species by both the small- scale and large scale fleets. The development of some fleet segments in the ORs over the past few years has been hampered by various externalities in relation with the status of the resources targeted (Portuguese fleet segments, French Guiana shrimp trawlers) or in relation with loss of access to historical fishing grounds in the case of Canary Islands large scale trawlers.
ORs have implemented strategies to lower the fishing pressure on inshore stocks for which potential is perceived as limited, by developing exploitation of offshore resources available. This is particular the case in French ORs with the development of exploitation of highly migratory species around networks of anchored FADs as far as 40 miles offshore. For Portuguese ORs, developments included exploitation of deep-sea stocks around the seamounts present in the fishing zones.
Past and current fleet management measures applicable to ORs
Under the current CFP, ORs fishing fleets have no derogation to the general fleet management rules prescribing in essence that entry of new capacity must be compensated by prior withdrawal of equivalent capacity, and that fishing capacities withdrawn with public aids shall not be replaced.
Under the previous CFP, ORs fleets were granted derogations exempting Member States from the compulsory withdrawal of capacities in case of entry until end of 2011, within the capacity limits authorised. ORs were also granted authorisation to use Union aids for vessels construction until end 2006 while prohibition of construction aid applied as from end 2004 for Mainland fleets.
Assessment of the current balance between ORs fleet capacity and the fishing opportunities available by Member States was not conclusive, mainly in the absence of biological data on stocks exploited. Neither France nor Portugal identified ORs fleet segments as structurally imbalanced in their fleet reports. Spain would have identified a segment in Canary Islands as structurally imbalanced.
The current CFP includes several measures of interest to ORs fishing fleets including exclusive access rights in the 100 miles zone around the territories, fishing opportunities under SFPAs negotiated with third countries in North and West Africa and in the Indian Ocean, or the creation of a dedicated Outermost Regions Advisory Council which did not exist under the previous CFP.
EMFF takes into account the specificities of ORs by authorising higher intensity of public aid compared to the Mainland (+35%), increasing maximum aid intensity level to 85% in the general case. This is higher than aid intensity considered for ORs under the previous EFF. A notable exception under EMFF is aid intensity for engine replacement which is uniformly capped at 30%, irrespective of the Union region concerned.
EMFF also includes the continuation of the compensation scheme aiming at offsetting additional costs borne by ORs operators in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors as a result of the specific handicaps of the regions. By comparison with its predecessors, the technical and geographical scopes of the intervention are broadened, and the annual maximum financial envelope almost doubled from EUR 15.6 million to EUR 27.5 million as a consequence.
The Commission authorises Member States to take into account the specificities of ORs when designing State Aids schemes for the fisheries sector. This opportunity has been taken up for vessel running costs in Spain and Portugal ORs, and for investments in vessels and implementation of fishermen compensation schemes for long-lasting natural disasters in French ORs.
The way forward
Due to the global economic crisis and to other externalities, ORs could not take full advantage of past derogations to Union fleet management rules. ORs fleet modernisation remains a stringent need to be addressed.
A new derogation to fleet management rules established under the CFP could support further development of those ORs fleet segments that are currently not nearing established capacity limits. However, for those fleet segments close to their respective capacity ceilings (in Azores, Madeira and Guadeloupe in particular), a derogation on similar grounds that the 2004-2011 derogation will have no effects.
In the longer term, it could be envisaged to increase certain fleet segment capacities if it can be scientifically demonstrated that exploitation rate of certain fisheries resources can be increased without compromising the MSY objective. In complement, reorganisation or even suppression of ORs fleet segmentation could provide development possibilities for some ORs segments without the need to increase capacity limits.
Another proposal is to increase aid intensity for operations concerning engine replacement in the ORs by granting the 35 percentage increase on top of the 30% aid intensity set by EMFF. Under current EMFF rules, aid intensity for such operations applies uniformly, irrespective of the Union region considered.
While re-introduction of Union aids for construction would be a leverage to modernise ORs fleets given the specific handicaps of the regions, the decision is sensible and has to be coherent with recent Union initiatives in the WTO context aiming at prohibiting harmful subsidies in the fisheries sector which according to the Commission, encompass aids for construction or increase of fishing vessels capacities.
Link to the full study: http://bit.ly/585-901
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Further reading: The Committee on Fisheries (PECH) has requested scientific input contributing to its work on an Own Initiative Report on The Management of Fishing Fleets in Outermost Regions (2016/2016 INI). This Briefing [short link: http://bit.ly/585-920] summarizes the main elements of a study prepared for PECH Committee with the same title.