In December I published a series of posts about overfishing and discard and moves by the EU to protect fish stocks from overexploitation:
The position at the end of December was that the Fisheries Committee had voted to recommend to the EU Plenary that controls on overfishing and discard should be implemented. The Plenary is scheduled to vote on this tomorrow and I received this email update from the European Parliament today in which the German Chair of the Fisheries Committee, MEP Ulrike Rodust, clarifies the position regarding the proposed controls and the ramifications once these are implemented. It makes interesting reading and I’ll report back when I’ve heard the result of tomorrows vote in the Plenary.
Plenty more fish in the sea? MEPs to decide on best way to tackle overfishing
MEPs will this week decide how to reform the EU’s common fisheries policy in order to put an end to overfishing while at the same time tackle unemployment in many coastal areas due to the decline of fisheries. Ahead of a debate on 5 February and vote the day after, we asked German Social Democrat Ulrike Rodust why she is calling for radical change in her recommendation to fellow MEPs.
How do you propose to protect stocks and put an end to overfishing?
My report, which was supported by the majority of the fisheries committee, will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4am, neglecting scientific advice and setting too high fishing quotas. As of 2015 the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. One problem we have to tackle is the lack of scientific data: we will have to set up additional research and data collection programmes.
How would you address unemployment and related social problems among fishermen in coastal areas?
The good thing about ending overfishing is that not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields. We will have to help fishermen get through the transitional period when there will have to be a bit less fishing for some species. What’s more, my group tabled an amendment which obliges member states to give fishing rights preferably to traditional small-scale fishermen. This part of the fishing sector produces more jobs and uses less detrimental fishing techniques most of the times.
Unfortunately, at some European coasts, there are simply too many fishermen chasing too few fish. Member states will have to reduce the number of active fishermen, but they should do this in a socially responsible way.
You propose member states close 10%-20% of their territorial waters to fishing within three years. Do you expect this to be endorsed by the Parliament and the Council?
The fisheries committee has already endorsed a general obligation for member states to create these fish stock recovery areas but without prescribing a certain percentage. My group will reintroduce a clearer obligation for the plenary vote. For the moment the Council does not agree, but our fisheries ministers will have to learn that there is co-decision and that the EP is a serious negotiation partner.
There have been negotiations to reform the EU’s common fisheries policy for more than 20 years. Will this reform finally resolve the sector’s long-standing problems?
Ending overfishing and discards is indeed a historical change of the EU’s fisheries policy. Today the sector suffers a lot, not only because of the results of continued overfishing, but also because of cheap imports. By the way, many fishermen of the new generation support our plans. And we need the active support of fishermen. Fishing happens far out at sea, so you cannot simply rely on controls only. That’s why in the future fishermen will have a much greater say through the so-called advisory councils.
I’m wondering how they’re going to encourage small-scale fisherman now that a large number of them have had to sell their boats and find a new career because of the monster vessels catching so much of the stock. It’s a nice idea in theory but will it actually happen in practice?
Hello Lorna, that’s a really good question. There should be some mechanism for putting those ex-fishermen back in boats. Maybe the government should fund or part fund the boats on the understanding that the fishermen opeate in a sustainable fashion and are guaranteed a fair price for their catch? That would create jobs, ensure a viable fishing industry based on longer term sustainability and therefore guarantee the survival of the other support industries and the communities where these folk live.
To answer your question though, it has to work in practice because if it doesn’t… .
What do you reckon? Can it be made to work?
That sounds like a good idea Finn, but I think there would need to be an emphasis on instruction and education. Anyone wanting to take advantage of such a subsidy should have to have all the issues explained properly to them. It’s all very well to talk of what they should do, but who knows what actually happens out at sea when there’s no-one there to police it? The fishermen need to be encouraged in stewardship of the seas, and I know many of the smaller scale fishermen were well versed in this, but the big boats have ben run for massive profits and that’s one of the thing that needs to be addressed, I think.
Policing things at sea is the issue, I wonder if there are tech solutions for that kind of problem? But your right about education, respect for and stewardship of the oceans has got to be the end result.
We just watched an aging Jamie Oliver telling us that we should all head into Tesco’s and ask them for sustainably fished fish and ask for the fish in the catch that fishermen throw back…as much as our Jim likes to hurl himself onto any bandwagon this one smacks of an adgenda to increase profits rather than save fish. It’s a very thin line that we walk and here’s hoping that sustainable fisheries are a possibility in the near future.
I think he’s invested a lot of his own money in giving unfortunate folk a leg up so I’ve tended to give him the benefit of the doubt, I certainly hope his fish campaign was done for the right reasons. But I’ll definitely join you in a drink to sustainable fisheries. The consequences for the oceans and, by extrapolation, us don’t bear thinking about if we continue to pillage and destroy at the current rate.
You are right Finn, and Oliver lover or not, at least he “tries” to get the message out, even if he doesn’t managed to come across with the same degree of authenticity and genuine concern that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall commands ;). It’s a world wide thing and the tuna industry is hunkering down to start pinching the edges out of the last bastion of tuna fishing in the pacific oceans…profits over preservation and we all need to take a few moments out of our day and sign the heck out of every single petition that we can to ensure that we still have fish (other than blowfish which seem to be doing a massive rebound (apart from in Japan…”Fugu me!” 😉 ) in the sea, let alone to eat.
I’ve been busy emailing the MEP’s from my part of the world to urge them to vote for the reforms and I’ve had a couple of interesting replies. The Plenary vot is tomorrow so I shall be watching my email inbox with baited breath! All of us have got to act and act fast to stop the oceans becoming deserts.
Kudos to you Finn and your efforts…we all need to be acting fast because the stupidity of fishing something out of existance is mindless humanity gone wrong!
Hear, hear! Couldn’t have phrased that better myself 🙂