In October 2017, the European Commission and the Estonian Presidency of the EU Council jointly organised the conference “Beyond 2020: Supporting Europe’s Coastal Communities” in Tallinn, Estonia on the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) both now and beyond 2020. The conference, which had more than 70 speakers and attracted some 300 participants has now presented its conclusions from the event. The main findings are that the EMFF, as the EU’s main funding instrument for the fisheries sector, helps to support the CFP objectives by making fishing and aquaculture more sustainable, competitive and innovative, by increasing the availability of data and strengthening control as well as by enhancing the conservation of the environment and natural resources.
By the end of 2016, nearly 6,500 projects had been selected for financing. More than half of them are designed to help SMEs in fisheries and aquaculture become more competitive. More than a third of them are also designed to preserve and protect the marine environment and to promote resource efficiency. Although the EMFF has helped to mobilise more than 1 billion euros of public and private investment, there was common understanding among participants that efforts need to be stepped up to maximise EMFF achievements.
Looking beyond 2020, the conference examined in detail the challenges and opportunities facing the fisheries and maritime sectors. Although the sector has become more sustainable and competitive, e.g. with the fleet generating nearly 800 billion euros in net profit in 2015 alone, there was widespread agreement that there are still a number of important challenges ahead for which support will be needed. At the same time, participants largely concurred on the need to avoid harmful subsidies which increase fleet capacity, thus leading to over-fishing, and to focus instead on the protection of existing resources and marine ecosystems.