EU - More progress has been made on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) as the Fisheries Council adopted a revised mandate to facilitate the next stage of negotiations between the Irish Presidency and the European Parliament.
The council specifically decided on:
- detailed measures to ban the discarding of fish;
- legally binding limits to ensure fishing levels are sustainable;
- provisions to decentralise decision making, allowing Member States to agree the measures appropriate to their fisheries.
A Defra press release stated that the UK Government has fought for a commitment to firm dates to ban discards and this agreement, once finalised by the European Parliament, will see a ban introduced on 1 January 2015 for ‘Pelagic’ fisheries (such as Mackerel and Herring). A ban will also be put in place for other fisheries starting on 1 January 2016.
The changes will also allow countries to work together regionally to implement measures appropriate to their own fisheries, rather than be subject to ineffective micro-management from Brussels. This ‘regionalisation’ process has been a top negotiating priority for the UK Government which has built support for reforms to replace the over-centralised system that currently hinders progress in our fisheries.
Furthermore, the Council has agreed legally binding limits to ensure sustainable fishing. This will ensure annual quotas will be underpinned by scientific advice, to achieve healthy fish stocks and a prosperous fishing industry.
Leading the negotiations for the UK, Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon said: "I came here to secure an agreement that would be good for the UK and to head off those who sought to water down the changes we desperately need to make to this broken policy. I am delighted that we have been able to do that today.
"This was a difficult negotiation, and although it is not as ambitious as I would have liked, we have stuck to our key principles. This package of reforms fulfils our promise to make discards a thing of the past and ensure sustainable fishing for future generations."
Speaking after the meeting in Brussels, EU Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki said: "Council has made a good step forward and really tried to come closer to the EU parliament position in order to find a compromise. I think a deal is possible and I hope we can finalise a first reading agreement under the Irish Presidency. We need a fast deal and this can give the opportunity to the Commission to focus on issues relating to the implementation.
"We need to solve the practicalities and at the same time we need to help our fishermen to adjust to the new situation, because this is a radical change for the way we fish. We have to give all possible support to our fisheries sector and our administrations. I think we have positive news this morning and I hope that in the coming weeks, we can work together with the Parliament and the Council to facilitate the procedure to come to a first reading deal."
Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney, said: "The package agreed this morning will allow us to rebuild the fish stocks in European waters and will allow for significant quota increases for our fishermen as we phase out the wasteful practice of discarding fish and see the benefits of this change in rebuilding our fish stocks and ensuring a better, and more secure future, for our fishermen and coastal communities."
The package now has to be agreed by the European Parliament.
You can view more opinions on the meeting by clicking here.