Wednesday, 13 July 2011

EU to unveil Common Fisheries Policy Reform - the end of fish discards?

EU to unveil Common Fisheries Policy reform

Fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki says the current policy has been a failure Continue reading the main story The proposal, which would take effect from 2013, is expected to give vessels quota shares guaranteed for periods of at least 15 years.

The Common Fisheries Policy, which has been in effect for 28 years, is intended to keep catches sustainable. Environmentalists have criticised the plan, saying it would lead to a "virtual privatisation of the oceans".

Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki said that the EU had to admit that the policy so far had been a failure.

"There is overfishing; we have 75% overfishing of our stocks and comparing ourselves to other countries we cannot be happy," Ms Damanaki told BBC Radio Four's Today programme.

"So we have to change. Let me put it straight - we cannot afford business as usual any more because the stocks are really collapsing."

One of the central planks of the expected reforms is to eliminate discarded fish. Currently, up to half the catch of some species has to be discarded because vessels have exceeded their quota, or because the fish are undersized.

Under the new scheme, boats are expected to land all the fish caught, and the whole catch would count against quotas. This would apply to species including mackerel, herring and tunas from the beginning of 2014.

Cod, hake and sole would follow a year later, with virtually every other commercial species coming under the regulation from 2016.

The reform is also expected to include plans to restore fish stocks over the long term and allow EU member states to set incentives for the use of selective fishing gear.

Other measures are expected to include:

* ensuring catches are within levels that can "produce the maximum sustainable yields" by 2015

* implementation of an "ecosystem-based approach" to limit the impact of fishing

* reduce fleet over-capacity through market measures rather than subsidies

* promote the development of "aquaculture activities" to ensure food security and job opportunities

* developing alternative types of fish management techniques

There has been widespread public opposition to discards across the EU, with more than half a million people signing a petition publicised by UK celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Though the reform proposal will be published on Wednesday, there is likely to be even more strident debate before the final package is agreed in 2013, says the BBC's rural affairs correspondent, Jeremy Cooke.

The proposals now have to be considered by the European Parliament and member states before they can be adopted as binding legislation.

"It is not going to be easy," said Markus Knigge, policy and research director for the Pew Environment Group's Brussels-based European Marine Programme.

"I do believe that most member states accept that we have to do something, but when it comes to solutions, that can be more difficult to discuss than the failures of the current policy," he told BBC News.

He said that there were a number of nations that were not happy about particular parts of the proposals, such as the role of scientific advice in the process of setting catch limits etc.

He added that it was not possible to gauge how negotiations would go because, as a result of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament would have an equal say as the traditionally more powerful Council of Ministers.

Article taken from the BBC News Website and was published on 13th July 2011

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