The ETF Fisheries Section fights to improve working conditions, safety and training for over 150000 women and men who work as fishers in Europe. This includes, for example, promoting wider ratification and enforcement of the ILO Work in Fishing Convention (C188) by European countries.
Fisheries is one of the most dangerous sectors: therefore, the focus of the ETF and its members is on improving working conditions on board. Over the last years, many cases of abuses and non-respect of human and labour rights on board fishing vessels in EU waters have been reported, mostly involving migrant workers. Our action in this respect is aimed at changing the regulatory framework, when needed, and also at claiming enforcement of existing rules.
Since the fisheries sector is regulated at European level, EU fisheries policy is at the heart of our work. The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) offers an unbalanced strategy, which mainly focuses on environmental sustainability and pays very little attention to the social problems in the sector and the human consequences of the measures proposed.
We are therefore working to ensure that future revisions of the CFP take into due account the human factor. Our main aim is to embed a strong social conditionality principle in the new CFP, which would mean that EU support and funding would only be available for employers who respect social standards in their treatment of workers. We also advocate for the mainstreaming of social issues in the way Europe organises the fisheries market, including in trade arrangements with non-EU countries.
Revamping the ETF’s policy on the international dimension of EU fisheries is another priority. This includes developing an agreement within the Social Dialogue Committee on working conditions for non-EU nationals on EU-owned fishing vessels. The Fisheries Section is also active in many of the Advisory Councils that advise the European Commission on the implementation of the CFP. The social consequences of Brexit for fisheries workers are another priority issue for the ETF.
In addition, the Fisheries Section focuses on identifying possible management tools to improve the social, economic and environmental sustainability of fishing activities in the Mediterranean Sea. The fight against abuses in the Irish fishing sector also remains a high priority.
In 2020, the Fisheries Section has worked to counter the repercussions of the COVID-19 crisis that has put fisher’s jobs and incomes at risk. We addressed the relevant authorities at EU level and coordinated with affiliates to find solutions for specific problems.
At the moment, the ETF Fisheries Section and its affiliates are also exploring new areas of work, such as the impact of offshore windfarms on fisheries and the problem of litter at sea (in particular, plastics) for fishers.