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EU Reform Of CFP Will 'Privatise Oceans'


GLOBAL - The European Commission is planning to reform the EU's fishing industry by giving vessels quota shares guaranteed for periods of at least 15 years.

According to the BBC, Maria Damanaki, fisheries commissioner, will issue the proposal on reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in July 2011, to take effect in 2013.

However, a draft that was obtained by BBC News shows changes that some environmentalists describe as "virtual privatisation of the oceans".

Final decisions on fishing quotas will stay with politicians, not scientists.

The reform of the aging CFP has been called in order to improve its method of keeping catches within sustainable limits, as it has often been criticised for not doing.

Another core idea for the proposed reform is to ban discards, by switching to quota systems which is based upon how many fish are landed in port rather than how many are caught. This would apply to species including mackerel, herring and tunas from the beginning of 2014, with other species being introduced later.

The way in which this ban would be policed has not yet been decided. Many North sea fishermen are concerned over the ban as it is impossible for them to catch just one species of fish where many species swim together.

Other ambitions for the reform include:

  1. setting up "multi-annual plans" to restore fish stocks "based on the precautionary approach"
  2. restoring fisheries to a level that provides maximum sustainable yield (MSY) - the level that will produce as many fish as possible each year without causing the stock to decline - "not later than 2015"
  3. allowing nations to incentivise use of selective fishing gear.

But, according to Markus Knigge of the Pew Environment Group, this is not ambitious enough to restore life in Europe's seas to its full vitality. In his comments to the BBC, Mr. Knigge states how the new draft propsal will not solve the current failiures.

Chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, Bertie Armstrong, also adds that to get MSY for all stocks at all all times is impossible. His other concern voiced was that new rulings would not take into account local needs and practices.

Scientists have commented that so far the CFP have ignored their reccomendations and, in many cases, have done the opposite. However, Boris Worm, a noted fisheries scientist from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, did point out that no ideal system exists which the EU could take note from.

"The ideal situation is the one you have in the US, where if a fish stock falls below a certain level it simply can't be fished - there's no wiggle room, no bargaining about a quota," he said.

Another major concern with the proposal is the mandatory adoption of individual transferable quotas (ITQs) for fishing vessels over 12m or vessels under 12m with towed gear [such as trawls].

Although a global survey published three years ago highlighted how fisheries managed using ITQs were half as likely to collapse, the use of ITQs would come at a social cost as it would cut employment. Dr. Worm also adds that ITQs are not likely to save fish.

ITQ's would allow skippers to have guaranteed shares of national quotas for periods of at least 15 years, which they could trade among themselves - even, if the national government agrees, trading with fleets from other countries.

Mr. Knigge went further. He claimed that fish stocks are a public resource and therefore those who show they can fish sustainably should be allowed access. The new reform would be the virtual privatisation of the oceans".

The commission's draft is currently being discussed by EU member states and European parliamentarians, and to a certain extent by stakeholders including fishermen and conservation groups.

Following publication of the final version in July, there is likely to be even more strident debate before the reform package is agreed in 2013.