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EU Fishing Policy Falls Under Scrutiny

by the Fish Site Editor
13 February 2009, at 12:00am

EU - Europe's controversial fishing policy was under scrutiny Tuesday at a public hearing in the European Parliament about its future shape.

Caught between scientists who say stocks are collapsing and fishing communities dependent on fish for their livelihoods, the Common Fisheries Policy has always had a stormy ride but reforms should be in place by 2013, supporters hope.

Scottish Conservative Struan Stevenson, whose electorate includes many people dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihoods was scathing about the existing policy. "The CFP was meant as a policy to protect fish and the jobs of the fishermen and it failed equally in both; there are 16 stocks on the verge of collapse and thousands of jobs lost."

European Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg said a new policy must be "effective, simple and easy to administer" and have a "regional dimension".

Spanish Socialist MEP Carmen Fraga Estévez said a new policy must tackle the problem of over capacity.

Ecological, economic, social principles stressed

Mr Borg said "we need a common policy where all European fisheries are based on the same principles of ecological, economical and social sustainability. Only then can we be sure that fishers throughout the EU, from the Baltic to the Mediterranean, operate on a level playing field. But at the same time, we have to acknowledge that our seas and fisheries are so rich because they are so diverse."

Some MEPs were concerned about the impact if Iceland joins the EU. They mentioned the "cod wars" of the 1970's in the rich Icelandic fishing grounds and wondered if Iceland would ask for an opt out of the fisheries policy. Mr Borg said that as fisheries is a "common" EU policy Iceland wouldn't be able to opt out.

"Scandal" of by-catch

Irish MEP Avril Doyle, of he EPP-ED group raised the issue of "by-catch" - fish or marine species that are caught unintentionally with the target fish and are then thrown back into the sea - usually dead. By-catch is estimated to account for a staggering quarter of all fish caught worldwide. In the North Sea alone the UN's Food and Agriculture Agency reckons it amounts to 500,000 to 880,000 tonnes a year.

The hearing aims to help draw together opinions on reforming fisheries policy. The Parliament and Council of Ministers will ultimately vote on the future shape of any fisheries policy.

the Fish Site Editor