European Parliament votes to address welfare through the Common Fisheries Policy


European Parliament votes to address welfare through the Common Fisheries Policy

25 January 2024

Last week the European Parliament issued a resounding call to the European Commission, urging the Common Fisheries Policy to improve the welfare of aquatic animals.

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) encompasses both the aquaculture and fisheries sectors and is pivotal in establishing the foundational objectives for the management of fisheries and fish populations in the EU’s waters, along with the market and financial aspects of aquaculture. It ensures both sectors are ecologically, economically and socially sustainable. 

On 18 January, the European Parliament (EP) voted on what the next steps of CFP implementation should include, adopting a new report laying out the achievements and shortcomings of the CFP since its last reform, over a decade ago. 

However, the report calls for updated legislation, ignoring the fact  that the key reason that the CFP is not resulting in sustainable fishing in the EU is because Member States consistently set fishing quotas above scientific advice. The priority should be better implementation and enforcement of the CFP, in line with the latest science. 

A critical flaw in the policy is the absence of any consideration of aquatic animals’ welfare, despite billions of them being farmed or fished and ultimately slaughtered every year in the European Union. Although Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires fishery policies - among others - to “pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals”, the CFP is the only EU policy which deals with living animals but contains no animal welfare provisions.

Last Thursday, the Members of the European Parliament asserted the need to change this, calling on the European Commission (EC) to take into account the welfare of farmed and wild-caught fish in the CFP. This move aligns with the sentiment expressed by European citizens, as over 90% of respondents in the 2023 Eurobarometer indicated a demand for farming and breeding practices to adhere to basic ethical requirements.. 

This vote follows-up on scientific recognition of the sentience of fish, as confirmed by the European Food Safety Authority) and the European Commission, and aligns the EP with the Council of the European Union which, in June, also urged the Commission to enhance aquatic animals’ welfare through the CFP.

In the same vein, Commissioner Sinkevicius also made a promising statement during the debate - “I (...) recognise that future research and innovation is required, in particular on species-specific welfare parameters (...)” - gives us hope that the European citizens’ demand for better animal welfare conditions - including for aquatic animals - will be heard.”