The average EU citizen buys and eats around 26 kilos of seafood every year – that's about ten million tonnes in total. But Europe's seas are depleted and fishing communities struggle to survive. The Common Fisheries Policy, the CFP, is widely seen as a failure and faces wide-ranging reform. Not before time, according to campaigners. So far the system has been very centralised. It's been quite an obscure system. You know that decisions were made in Brussels behind closed doors between the Commission and national governments. We'd like this to be changed. The policy has been managed from Brussels since 1970. But fish move around and there are huge differences between, say, the Mediterranean and the North Sea. Most MEPs want local stakeholders – fishermen, processors and local authorities – to have more control. Devolving day-to-day management of fisheries back down to the regions, to the Member States, to the fishermen themselves is the way forward. To reduce over-fishing and halt the decline in fish stocks, fisheries ministers set limits for catches and fishing effort every year, but it's hit some fishermen and fishing communities hard. That, too, is something many MEPs want to address. We are proposing a specific treatment for the small-scale fisheries segment and also proximity management. A decentralised policy would also help these sectors to increase their sustainability. Quotas oblige fishermen to dump around a million tonnes of fish a year into the sea. A ban on discards, though, must not lead to them being dumped on land instead. The EU is not self-sufficient in seafood – around 60% has to be imported through deals with other countries. MEPs, debating three reports this week on reforming the CFP, know it's urgent but that the effects will take time.
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