Europe adopts new framework for fisheries data collection
The European Commission has welcomed the adoption by Council of its proposal for a regulation establishing an EU framework for the collection, management and use of data in the fisheries sector and support for scientific advice regarding the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The new framework retains and builds on the proven features of the existing data collection system. It also introduces provisions to meet the new developments following the 2002 Reform of the CFP, in particular the move towards fisheries- or fleet-based management as opposed to managing individual stocks, the integration of environmental data, and the shift towards an ecosystem-based approach. The Commission will shortly introduce a proposal for detailed implementing rules.
Welcoming the adoption by Council, Commission for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, Joe Borg said: 'This is good news as the new system will allow for a move to fisheries management that takes account of ecological, economic and social data. It is also fully in line with the EU's new integrated Maritime Policy which emphasises the importance of collecting and managing reliable data on the whole range of marine activities, including their impact on the resource base.'
The new data collection system covers the entire process, from the collection of data in ports or at sea, to its use by the end-users (the scientific community and advisory bodies). There are new rules for access and use of the data collected, as well as rules to protect the interests of data providers. As well as supporting the move towards fleet- and fishery-based management, and towards an ecosystem-based approach, the new framework also places more emphasis on social and economic data so as to provide a basis for impact assessment of new legislation and to allow monitoring of the performance of the European fleet. The regulation covers the collection of data by scientists for scientific purposes, and is independent of the systems used to control quota uptake in the Member States for the purposes of implementing the CFP.
The regional dimension is recognised, in line with the new approach to the management of EU fisheries which has seen the creation of Regional Advisory Councils (RACs). The regulation also aims to fill gaps in the existing system, and to improve the quality of data wherever possible. Quality control and validation have been reinforced, and EU financial support will now be conditional on compliance with agreed quality standards.
The result will be a more transparent system, in which data collected at national level with EU financial assistance will now be made available not only to the scientific bodies which advise the Commission on fisheries policy, but to all stakeholders interested in fisheries management, including universities, NGOs and fishers' organisations. This will facilitate the work of the RACs, as well as improving independent peer review and overall quality standards.
The new regulation also includes access to and use of detailed data, and not just the aggregated data provided for by the previous regulation. In particular, access to satellite monitoring (VMS) data will provide detailed information at the high level of resolution required for effective spatial planning. This will play a major role in enabling effective action to protect vulnerable marine habitats both under the EU's Habitats Directive, and in fulfilment of the EU's international commitments.
Simplification is also an important goal of the new regulation. The distinction between minimum and extended national programmes has been removed, and replaced with a single core programme. National programmes will henceforward be established for 3-year periods, rather than every year as in the past. Both these changes will reduce the administrative burden on all concerned, as will the greater emphasis on regional coordination.
This regulation is the fruit of extensive consultation with the Member States, the national scientific institutes directly involved in the collection and monitoring of fisheries data and the main end-users, such as the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES).
The systematic collection of reliable basic data on fisheries is a cornerstone of fish stock assessment and scientific advice, and consequently for the effective implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy. This new regulation builds on the original EU framework for the collection and management of such data as part of an integrated programme which was set up in 2000 (Council Regulation EC N°1543/2000).
The European Union is a major funder of fisheries data collection and scientific analysis. Under Council Regulation 861/2006 establishing Community financial measures for the implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy and in the area of the Law of the Sea, up to a maximum of € 300 million has been allocated for actions in the area of data collection over the period 2007-2013. Eligible measures in national data collection programmes are thus eligible for EU co-financing up to 50% of the total expenditure.