Jan Kappel, EFTTA’s Public Affairs Officer, explains in the following interview his day to day role, the Lobby’s main achievements and what the future holds for EFTTA and the fishing industry
What’s your background and what did motivate you to join EFTTA?
I was hired to work for both EFTTA and EAA (the European Anglers Alliance) 16 years ago. At the time I was approached directly by the Danish national angling organisation to apply for the job. They knew via their network, that I recently had worked for two Danish MEPs at the European Parliament running their Brussels secretariat. EFTTA and EAA needed to establish an office in Brussels with a full time person and that became me after I had finished an 8 months webmaster course in Denmark, which I followed at the time. I like to work and live in Brussels so I was happy to return to the city to work for EFTTA and EAA.
Who do you work with in your day to day?
EFTTA’s and EAA’s lobby objectives are 90% the same, so most of the time it makes no sense to say EFTTA without mentioning EAA and vice versa.
I am networking regularly with many people, and in on-and-off contact with others from NGOs, EAA officials, scientists and individuals who have special knowledge on certain topics. Information and opinions flow to and from those people.
To lobby effectively the EU institutions or other fora of importance one needs in-depth knowledge about the topic at hand, and about the policy- and decision-making bodies and procedures. Much of my work is about legislation, trying to improve it, and to avoid damages from it to angling and the tackle trade. I sit some expert groups and stakeholder groups which deal with a number of issues and policy areas of our interests e.g. the Water Framework Directive, NATURA 2000, the Common Fisheries Policy and more. I used to lobby the European Commission, Council and Parliament as well as other non-EU fora, e.g. the Bern Convention’s “European Charter on Recreational Fishing and Biodiversity” (1), and FAO’s “EIFAC Code of Practice for Recreational Fisheries” (2).
However, since I started EU has grown with more Member States, including more Members of the European Parliament. So when EFTTA and EAA decided a few years ago to increase the interaction with Members of the European Parliament, and also to launch a forum within the European Parliament more manpower was needed. EFTTA and EAA then hired consultancy ‘AliénorEU’. I am very happy about that arrangement. I deliver the technical details to lobby the legislation while AliénorEU has the direct contact with the MEPs. AliénorEU also run the secretariat for our Recreational Fishing Forum, which arranges 3-4 events a year inside the parliament. Furthermore, earlier this year EFTTA hired Anna to work with me at the Brussels office. Anna is educated in law, with special expertise within the EU fisheries legislation. She is mainly engaged with sea fisheries affairs while I now can spend more time on freshwater affairs and other issues of interest to EFTTA and its members.
Why do you think Lobbying is so important for EFTTA?
It is evident that an organisation with many members, speaking on behalf of all members or even on behalf of a whole branch can be much more influential than if a few members act on their own – in particular at a supra-national level like the EU. In other words, EFTTA is a stronger force than its members would ever be when acting alone, disparate and disorganised.
Also, it is of great importance to any company to be well informed and to be so in due time about new legislation, which may impact their businesses. EFTTA staff and EFTTA members together can and do provide much EU and national information of importance to all, which most EFTTA members wouldn’t have heard about before much later, if at all.
It is often said that a lobbyist lobby as much the outside world as the organisation itself, which the lobbyist works for. It is true insofar, that the lobbyist needs a mandate from the organisation to be able to lobby the outside world to protect and further the organisation members’ ‘common interests’. Sometimes members of an association hold differing views on what are and how to describe ‘the common interests’, and, more often, how to protect these interest, short and long term. Such differing opinions make people interested in knowing more and to get involved. This helps to strengthen the association internally. Of course there is a tipping point for everything, also for internal quarrels. Everybody knows that. But working together, good communication and information spread will always help an association to stay well away from that tipping point.
EFTTA’s annual working plan is my mandate for the year and, in between, Jean Claude Bel decides what to do if I have a doubt.
Which are EFTTA’s main achievements in the last couple of years?
Sea bass: EFTTA has been one of the drivers that sea bass at long last is managed at the European level. It came with a cost, as not only commercial fishermen now are regulated but anglers, too, but action was needed. The bass stock has declined continuously since the commercial bass fisheries took off in the 1970s. If things go to plan, an angling sea bass project will be funded next year by the EU, to provide better data on bass angling. A socio-economic study funded by the European Parliament will be presented at the parliament in October. I dare say, this would not have happened had EFTTA and EAA not pushed for that to happen through a number of years. The next step, the final step you could say, will be to follow up and find the funding that a recreational fishing socio-economic study can be conducted every five years as it happens in e.g. the USA. A lot of what EFTTA is doing has no immediate measurable effect, but materialise later in various forms. After 16 years in my position as EFTTA lobbyist I can tell honestly, that recreational angling has never had a bigger voice or impact at the European level than today. This is not to say that we can have all what we ask for, we cannot off course, but we are met with more open doors than ever before. Today’s limit on EFTTA’s engagement and influence is ‘only’ manpower, while 16 years ago it was all about to be known and recognised as a key player.
What does EFTTA’s future hold?
The short answer is that this is not for me but the EFTTA members to answer. The formation of the tackle trade changes all the time, mergers, bigger companies, internet-sales etc. etc. The membership structure of EFTTA has to change accordingly I think, to catch more free riders who benefits from EFTTA’s doings but without payment, and/or more payment may be asked from those who can afford it? This is outside my remit I am happy to say. I do hope though that EFTTA continuously will grow its economic potential. Recreational angling and the tackle trade need EFTTA as a player, a strong player. The business side of recreational angling - the jobs, the economic activities it supports and generates - is what ticks with the decision-makers very much.
(1) - European Charter on Recreational Fishing and Biodiversity http://ow.ly/bkpa30eVBzg
(2) - EIFAC Code of Practice for Recreational Fisheries www.fao.org/docrep/012/i0363e/i0363e00.htm