Member States recommend the inclusion of animal welfare in the Common Fisheries Policy
Yesterday, at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council meeting (AGRIFISH), EU Member States discussed the achievements and shortcomings of the Union’s Common Fishery Policy (CFP). At this occasion, the Council of the EU only narrowly fell short of adopting strong Council conclusions calling for fish welfare to be included in the next CFP.
The CFP is a set of rules for sustainably managing European fishing fleets and conserving fish stocks. The current CFP does not consider animal welfare in fisheries or aquaculture.
26 out of 27 Member States supported Council Conclusions which suggested including animal welfare in the CFP. However, due to Italy’s last-minute u-turn, Council consensus was not reached and the text was instead adopted as Presidency conclusions.
The adoption of these conclusions resonates with EU citizens’ resounding call for better animal welfare, be it for terrestrial or aquatic animals, and with the industry’s efforts, as some companies in the EU have started to voluntarily install equipment on farms and vessels to reduce the suffering of aquatic animals.
The 26 supporting Member States deserve a great deal of credit for the strong wording of paragraph 56 of the text which constitutes an important step in ensuring that the CFP finally complies with Article 13 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which calls on the EU to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating agriculture and fishery-related policies.
The Conclusions also recognise the scientific gaps existing for targeted species. Therefore, it requests that the European Commission carry out additional research and “take this research into consideration in policy development” - thereby opening the door to reduce the suffering of billions of fish and invertebrates caught or farmed every year in Europe. The text also indirectly acknowledges the scientific consensus on the sentience of fish.
In the text, Member States also recognise that “animal welfare improvements are necessary to strengthen the sustainability of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors” and invited the European Commission “to provide guidance on improving aquatic animal welfare” as well as to “further increase science-based knowledge on animal welfare of aquatic animals”. They also encouraged the Commission “to include provisions to improve the welfare of farmed fish in its announced proposals to revise EU animal welfare legislation”.
Eurogroup for Animals particularly welcomes the strong interventions of the Netherlands, Germany and Cyprus, who all underlined the importance of including animal welfare in the CFP. High hopes for animal welfare finally featuring in the upcoming CFP!