Commission’s report on EU fishery policy once again ignores fish welfare


Commission’s report on EU fishery policy once again ignores fish welfare

22 February 2023

Despite scientific findings that fish are sentient beings and Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) stipulating that animal welfare should be addressed, the European Commission has once again turned a blind eye again to aquatic animals’ welfare in the context of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Yesterday, the European Commission published a report on the Common Fisheries Policy’s (CFP) achievements and shortcomings since its adoption a decade ago. The package consists of a detailed  report and a communication note. 

Despite positive commitments to maintain fish populations at sustainable levels, Eurogroup for Animals strongly deplores that the Commission failed to recognise the place of fish welfare in the CFP and in sustainable fisheries. It clearly missed the opportunity to reduce suffering by creating market incentives connected to improved welfare methods, promoting research, and developing welfare standards.

This is all the more unacceptable as the EU fisheries policy is the last one to date handling live animals and still ignoring animal welfare - thereby openly ignoring Article 13 of TFEU requiring that fishery policy (among others) pays full regard to animal welfare. Recital 16 of the CFP calls for consideration to animal welfare, but this isolated sentence, not even included in the legal provisions, acts like an empty shell as it has not led to any legal measure.

The Commission further takes a back seat as many of the key recommendations are dependent on Member States’ own initiative and/or improving controls, which, to date, they  have shown little enthusiasm to do. Instead of delaying stepping up, the Commission should be using its own powers of initiative now.

In the same vein, the Commission’s report on the CMO regulation, also published on 21 February, fails to set any objectives on welfare including labelling information.

Eurogroup for Animals nevertheless welcomes low-trophic aquaculture (including algae and mollusks) being highlighted as a priority for technology development, as well as the overall approach of increasing efforts to achieve the CFP's key objectives of implementing the landing obligation (prohibiting fishers from discarding unwanted catches back at sea), fishing at maximum sustainable yields, and having meaningful Marine Protected Areas.