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Ms Damanaki Addresses World Ocean Day Forum

Sustainability Politics

GLOBAL - European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, opened the World Oceans Day Forum held yesterday in London. The main message she conveyed was that changes must be made to the way we fish and that changes must happen now, before it is too late. Everyone must work towards these changes as it affects everyone.

Ms Damanaki began by highlighting the current problems with EU fishing sector including the depletion of fish stocks, overfishing, discards and the challenges policy makers face over the situation. She also stated that something needs to be done now before it is too late and that everyone must work together to achieve this.

She continued to discuss the various changes that have been or will be made.

First, the commitment to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) in our seas by 2015, which we all undertook in Johannesburg in 2002, has to become a legal obligation, she said.

Commenting on the MSY, Ms Damanaki said that it will allow for continued fishing but, alongside using stocks sustainably, it must be applied in a way that will still allow for maximum finanicial gain as, at present, fish stocks are under-performing assets.

Another change that needs to be made is around discards. Ms Damanaki described it as being unethical, unacceptable and certainly not justifiable to consumers anymore; therefore all catches have to be landed. To combat the issue, Ms Damanaki talked about the use of transferable user quotas that can be used at national level.

I also want to make some big changes in the decision-making, Ms Damanaki said.

Ms Damanaki suggested a move towards decision making on a regional level, especially for minor cases which, at present, are taken to the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.

The idea here is that it is a form of management based on results rather than methods, and it goes to the advantage of Member States, she said.

Moreover, a regionalised policy would be simpler to implement and cheaper for the European taxpayer.

Ms Damanaki then went on to talk about consumer choice saying that Europeans should be allowed a better choice of sustainable products and, to be able to fight against illegal fishing, by their product choice.

The final point addressed was that of changes at international level.

"We are working toward a new generation of sustainable agreements with third countries and these will be centred on conservation," said Ms Damanaki.

"The Union will only enter into such an agreement with a third country if there is surplus stock that is not being used by the local industry or by any other foreign fleet. This should be a legal requirement."

Ms Damanaki also stated that the EU will also be taking the lead in joint operations to combat illegal fishing.

Ms Damanaki then closed the speech by saying that Europe cannot afford to be this far behind on sustainability and that everyone working together is crucial for the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy's success.