As you know the EU voted last week to reform the Common Fisheries Policy with a large majority. Here is an email update on the position going forward to the next series of negotiations sent by the Liberal Democrat MEP, Chris Davies. The email subject was ‘Fish Fight Victory!‘, enough said:
Dear Fish Fighter
You will know, I am sure, that on Wednesday the European Parliament gave its backing to major reforms of the EU Common Fisheries Policy. But perhaps you don’t know of the amazing scale of that victory.
After some 180 votes on different amendments or attempts to delete particular reforms, MEPs voted by 502-137 to support the entire package.
We got just about everything we could want. Key amendments calling for all fish caught to be landed (no discards), and for annual quotas to be set so that fish stocks are increased, were approved by large majorities with more than 400 MEPs voting in favour. We insisted that scientific advice must be followed, called for fish stock recovery areas to be created, backed requirements that a long term management plan be established for every fishery, and demanded that governments that fail to meet their obligations should face financial sanctions.
This was the first time that the European Parliament was able to vote on CFP reform as a co-legislator, with equal powers to the Council (EU governments) to amend or reject the European Commission’s proposals. Now the bargaining begins to agree a joint position. Compromises will have to be made, but our decision gives the rapporteur, German MEP Ulrike Rodust, the strong negotiating mandate she will need to overcome opposition in the Council. The Irish Presidency currently in charge of the negotiations has said that it would like to reach agreement by June.
The main opposition to the changes came from Spanish and French EPP (right-of-centre) members, but they weren’t able to keep their group united. At least 70 of their colleagues, led by Scandinavians and German MEPs, refused to back their attempts to weaken the reforms.
I haven’t checked the records but I think you will find that all British MEPs from the main parties backed the reforms. My understanding is that UKIP members abstained on the final vote (Nigel Farage was not present).
How was such a large majority achieved? Credit can go to many individuals and to all the MEPs who voted with us, but there is no doubt that the campaign in several countries led by environment NGOs, including Hugh’s Fish Fight, has raised public awareness and ensured that many people made their views known to their MEPs. Our campaign within the Parliament was run on a cross-party basis. More and more of my colleagues came to accept that we can’t go on as we are, and recognised that fishermen will have a more secure future if we adopt the measures necessary to rebuild fish stocks.
I know the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, would like to say that the first positive steps are already being taken. We now have 27 sustainable fisheries in Europe, compared to just five a few years ago.
The reform campaign is not over yet. The next big series of votes will take place in the Fisheries Committee in April, when we consider the 3,000 amendments tabled to Commission proposals for changing the way the fisheries budget is used over the next seven years. Do we carry on subsidising a handful of shipowners, mainly in Spain and France to build ever more powerful fishing boats, or do we use the money instead to help coastal communities and find ways of assisting fishermen adjust to the demands of sustainable fishing?
I’ll let you know more about this when I know more myself.
Thank you for all your support in this campaign.
Chris Davies MEP
Liberal Democrat environment spokesman
Secretary, cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group
I’m writing this post overlooking Bridlington harbour on the North Sea coast in East Yorkshire and the harbour is full of small fishing boats of the kind I hope will have their future guaranteed by the reforms. And I can’t think of a better location to be in to write this post!
I received emails from several of the Conservative MEP’s who all voted for the reforms, so hats off to them for voting the right way and for taking the trouble to communicate with me about it. Amusing to note though that the UK Independence Party (UKIP) members abstained and that Nigel Farage (the leader of UKIP) didn’t consider saving the fisheries and the jobs and livelihoods of all our fishing communities sufficiently important to even turn up. Despite that it looks as though we’re now in a great position to make real headway to protect our fish and our oceans.