Remarks by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius at the press conference on Sustainable Fisheries, Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems

Hello everyone,

This morning, the Commission proposed a package of measures to make the EU fisheries and aquaculture sector more sustainable and more resilient.

It includes:

A Communication on the functioning of the common fisheries and its future, accompanied by a report on the common market organisation

An action plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems

And an initiative to support the fisheries sector's energy transition

The actions we propose will help us reduce the sector's impact on marine ecosystems and on the climate, promote the use of cleaner energy sources, and move us away from dependence on fossil fuels. They will thus help us meet our Green Deal objectives.

Let me start with a few general comments on the common fisheries policy.

We are today almost exactly 10 years from its last reform in 2013. A good moment to take stock of where we are and where we want and need to go. Of what works and what can be improved. And where and how we can find solutions to address the remaining and new challenges.

Our assessment concludes that the Common Fisheries Policy continues to be the adequate legal framework to address the challenges that EU fisheries and the seas face. It provides the necessary stability to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and allows the EU to lead by example in driving sustainable fisheries worldwide.

And the three main principles on which the common fisheries policy is based are still relevant today: environmental, social and economic sustainability; effective regional cooperation; and science-based decision-making.

A decade after the last reform, we see tangible progress towards more sustainable fisheries on the ground. For example, in 2009, in the EU, only five (5) fish stocks were harvested sustainably. In 2022, that number was 60.

However, we have also looked critically at those elements of the common fisheries policy where we still see shortcomings.

Yes, we've made great progress since the 2013 reform. But still more needs to be done. We need to work harder and better to fully implement the CFP.

Faster and more structural transformation is needed to reduce environmental and climate impacts of fishing and aquaculture. This is necessary to restore a healthy marine environment and ensure food security, as well as to help the sector remain profitable become more resilient, increase energy efficiency and contribute to climate neutrality quickly.

One of the main issues raised in the context of the broad consultation we conducted in preparation of today's package was the need to build further trust and deepen cooperation among all fisheries and oceans related stakeholders.

Only by working together and by reflecting about the future together, can we address today's challenges. This is why we propose a new Pact for Fisheries and Oceans.

We want this to be the beginning of a new phase of cooperation with and between all fisheries and ocean stakeholders. We want to build mutual understanding of how we can jointly develop more sustainable and more profitable fisheries in the future and how we can future-proof the common fisheries in terms of both social and environmental resilience.

In this spirit, today we are looking at two areas and two challenges that we have to address: The dependency of the fisheries sector on a healthy marine environment, and its own environmental and climate impact. And its dependency on fossil fuels and the need to move towards cleaner energy sources.

The Marine Action Plan complements the CFP Communication and puts forward concrete actions to better protect and restore marine ecosystems and sensitive species, including a gradual phasing out of bottom fishing in all marine protected areas by 2030.

It will help us deliver on the promise and commitments of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 and of the historic agreement reached only two months ago at COP15 in Montreal on a new global biodiversity framework.  

Marine Protected Areas are important hotspots for marine biodiversity. This is why we have committed to expand these areas to 30% of EU seas by 2030 and to manage them properly. This means giving our marine species adequate protection and protecting and restoring marine ecosystems, which in turn will also help us rebuild fish stocks. More fish in the sea means a better future for fishers and better food security.

Member States should use all relevant EU funds to assist the fishers and the sector as a whole in this necessary transition.

The transition to more sustainable fishing methods has to go hand in hand with the transition to cleaner energy sources and more energy efficiency.

Over the past year, we have seen a significant spike in energy prices. For example, in 2022 marine-diesel prices more than doubled compared to the average prices in 2021. Energy costs in the fisheries and aquaculture sector increased from 13% of revenues in 2020 to an estimated 35% in 2022.

The impact was devastating!

So, clearly there is an urgent need to reduce the sector's energy intensity and dependency on fossil fuels. And to become climate neutral by 2050.

This is at the heart of the Energy Transition Communication, which complements today's fisheries and oceans package. The measures we propose will support energy efficiency in the short to medium-term and will foster the development and adoption of additional renewable and low-carbon energy sources in the medium to long-term.

They will thus strengthen the sector's socio-economic resilience and sustainability, and we will fully support it in this transformation.

More concretely, the initiative identifies the current barriers and proposes actions in four main areas:

  1. improving stakeholder cooperation, by setting up the EU fisheries and aquaculture Energy Transition Partnership;
  2. knowledge and innovation,
  3. skills, and
  4. financing

To conclude, I am convinced that this is the right moment to

take action and focus on creating a more modern, more

resilient and more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture

sector, making it fit for the future.

We are calling on all the relevant stakeholders who are

involved in fisheries and ocean policies and activities to

come together and renew our commitment to fully implement

the common fisheries policy.

We also invite them to come on board and also apply the

additional measures we propose today to protect and restore

marine ecosystems and make the fisheries sector more

energy efficient and climate neutral.

We call today on all stakeholders concerned to join us in the

Pact for Fisheries and Oceans.

Let's work together, discuss our proposals and how we can

implement them and make them work for the environment,

the climate and for our fisheries and aquaculture


Thank you.