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MEPs Back Sweeping Reform of EU Fisheries Policy

20 December 2012

EU - About two thirds of fish stocks in the continent’s waters are currently overfished, which means they are exploited above levels deemed safe by scientists. The main cause of the problem is Europe’s oversized fleet, which, according to some estimates, catches two to three times more fish than is sustainable, reports Greenpeace.

Greenpeace states that at the same time, about a million tonnes of edible fish are thrown back overboard dead every year – a practice called ‘discards’ – thanks to the combined effect of fishing quotas, fishermen’s attempts to maximise profits by focusing on lucrative species, and the use of non-selective fishing gears.

The plan approved this week by European MPs on the fisheries committee aims to tackle all three issues. It sets an objective to bring fish stocks back to sustainable levels by 2020, with an intermediate goal to reduce exploitation by 2015. It also recognises the excessive fishing capacity of the European fleet in relation to the state of stocks, and puts forward measures to cut it down. Finally, MEPs backed a timetable for the reduction of discards with different deadlines for each species.

Commenting on the outcome of the vote, Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “The vote today marks a turning point after decades of complacency for overfishing. The European Parliament has injected some much-needed ambition in the reform of EU fishing rules and challenged European governments to follow suit.

“At this stage, fisheries ministers are the main obstacle standing in the way of the recovery of our oceans and a sustainable future for fishing. Greenpeace and small-scale fishermen from across Europe call on them to back strong measures to end overfishing, promote low-impact fishing and preserve our oceans for generations to come.”

European fisheries ministers are also meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday to decide how much fish can be caught next year. The Commission and marine scientists have called for substantial reductions in catches to allow stocks to recover.

Representatives of small-scale fishermen and Greenpeace campaigners staged a joint demonstration outside the building where the quota negotiations are taking place. They displayed a 3D banner depicting a healthy sea emerging from under the pavement outside the Council building in Brussels. Artisanal fishermen from France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece held banners, in different languages, reading: “Fishing quotas: take from the big, give to the small.”

Small-scale fishing vessels make up about 80% of the European fishing sector, but are only granted a fraction of fishing quotas. In the UK the small boats (under 10 metres in length) have only access to 4% of fishing quota despite making up over three quarters of Britain’s fishing fleet.

Last month, small-scale fishermen from across Europe signed a joint declaration calling for an equitable reform of the CFP.

TheFishSite News Desk

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