Structural aspects of the common fisheries policy
The fishery sector is at least as vulnerable as agriculture. Production depends on several factors that cannot be controlled by producers: weather, water pollution, delimitation of fishing zones. The sea-fishing sector, which makes up the bulk of the fishing industry, has a highly specific social structure and arduous living and working conditions. Fishing is moreover often economically vital in certain coastal regions without other economic resources and it is a major breadwinner for the people living in these regions. This is why the common organisation of the fishery market must be accompanied by a common structural policy. This fact was recognised in 1970, which saw the combined adoption of the Regulation establishing a common structural policy and that of the Regulation creating a common organisation of the market for the fishery products sector.
Despite the structural measures that were thus implemented during the seventies and the eighties, the fisheries sector was confronted in the early nineties by a very serious structural crisis, characterised notably by: the widespread chronic overcapacity of the fleets; the over-capitalisation and high debt levels of the companies; the restrictions brought to certain fishing techniques in respect of the conservation of resources; the setting of European standards with regard to hygiene, health, product quality as well as safety on board. Moreover, many coastal regions suffered from a fragile socio-economic fabric, in particular the areas dependent on fishing, for many of which - if one took account of the induced activities - fishing was the principal or even the only activity.
On account of the aggravation of the structural problems of the fisheries sector in the enlarged EU, the former Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG) was replaced in 2006 by the European Fisheries Fund (EFF) [Regulation 1198/2006, last amended by Regulation 387/2012]. The assistance under the European Fisheries Fund (hereinafter EFF) aims in particular to: (a) support the common fisheries policy so as to ensure exploitation of living aquatic resources and support aquaculture to ensure durability; (b) promote a sustainable balance between resources and the fishing capacity of the European fishing fleet; (c) promote a sustainable development of inland fishing; (d) strengthen the competitiveness of the operating structures and the development of economically viable enterprises in the fisheries sector; (e) foster the protection and the enhancement of the environment and natural resources where related to the fisheries sector.
The objectives of the EFF are pursued within the framework of close cooperation ("partnership") between the Commission and the Member State. This partnership concerns regional, local and other public authorities, as well as other appropriate bodies, including those responsible for the environment and for the promotion of equality between men and women, the economic and social partners and other competent bodies. The partners concerned should be involved in the preparation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of assistance. The EFF provides assistance which complements national, regional and local actions, integrating into them the priorities of the European Union. The programming system takes the form of one single operational programme per Member State, in accordance with its national structure. Programming should ensure coordination of the EFF with other funds geared to sustainable development and with the Structural Funds and other Union funds. The programming exercise covers the period from 1 January 2007 to 31 December 2013. A specific EU action is designed to provide for exceptional and temporary support for the persons and enterprises active in the fisheries sector affected by the economic crisis induced by the increase of oil prices in 2008, as a special regime under the European Fisheries Fund [Regulation 744/2008].