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With the European Commission releasing recommendations for reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) last week, TheFishSite.com summarises the main points, and the industry's initial reactions.

The general view seems to be that the proposals don't go far enough. Many say the EC proposals are vague, and require more detailed clarification.

A coalition of the UKs leading environmental and conservation organisations including; WWF, RSPB, Greenpeace, Marine Conservation Society (MCS), ClientEarth, nef (new economics foundation), and OCEAN2012, have announced their views on the reform saying it fails on many levels and continues to put people before the environment.

The groups said despite some positive measures, such as the commitment to stock recovery by 2015, there were too many shortcomings that if not addressed by Ministers and MEPs, could undermine any chance of meaningful reform.

Sustainable levels of fish stocks

EC proposal: All fish stocks will have to be brought to sustainable levels by 2015, which is in line with the commitments the EU has undertaken internationally.

Reactions: This proposal has been welcomed by environmental groups, with a group of NGOs saying that this is one of the most positive measures of the proposal.

Scottish Fisheries Secretary, Richard Lochhead has said he is pleased that the meaningful conservation of stocks is set to be at the heart of a reformed CFP.

Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, commented that the proposal takes some positive steps with its commitment to achieve levels above Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2015 and rightly raises both the ecosystem based and precautionary approaches to the level of guiding principles of fisheries management.

Whilst some have welcomed this proposal, Europche and Copa-Cogeca have warned that the Maximum Sustainable Yield must be achieved gradually and in a flexible manner, depending on the situation in the various European fish stocks.

Spanish Minister of Marine Affairs, Rosa Aquilar has said that the 2015 target is unrealistic.

Regionalisation

EC proposals: The proposals aim to steer the finer details of policy decisions away from Brussels to allow for more local and regional involvement in fisheries management.

The proposals also allow for greater involvement of fishermen's organisations, to steer market supply and increase fishermen's profits.

Reactions: Seafish has agreed with the move towards a decentralised approach to fisheries management and rule simplification, which will give more control and responsibility back to individual fisheries.

Chief Economist, Hazel Curtis said: "We welcome the proposed shift to market-based management instruments which, in principle, are more likely to deliver an appropriate fleet size and create the incentives for sustainable exploitation of our fish stocks."

However, the Scottish government believes that the proposals do not go far enough in terms of regionalisation, which will lead to more mistakes been made.

Long term management plans are a significant step forward, says WWF Marine Policy Officer, Dr Mirelle Thom.

"A critical next step must be for Ministers and MEPs to ensure the responsibility for the management of these plans is decentralised to regional stakeholders. If we want to secure a thriving marine environment then fishermen, officials, scientists, industry and NGOs need to be recognised as co-managers of their fisheries, working together to implement multi-annual plans.

Discards

EC proposals: The Commission has said that the practice of discarding will be completely phased-out.

Reactions: Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead said that a complete ban on discards could prove counter-productive. Instead, we should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place.

Seafish, has said something similar, questioning the logistics of how a complete discard ban would be achieved.

Ms Aquilar, Spain said that the CFP requirements for discards should not damage any future fishing fleet opportunities.

Oceana has criticised the discard proposal on other grounds - saying that the outlined discard ban applies to less than 26 per cent of all currently commercially exploited species.

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is working closely with the industry and government on finding a workable alternative to the current quota rules, in order to reduce fish discards and maintain sustainable fisheries. The industry is assisting the MMO in trialling a catch quota system during 2011 this controls what is caught rather than what is landed, with every fish counting towards quota.

The trial will finish in February 2012 and the MMO will then assess and report back to Defra Fisheries Policy on the viability of catch quota management in mixed fisheries.

Transferable fishing rights

EC Proposal: The proposals make it obligatory for Member States to introduce individual transferable fishing rights for vessels longer than 12 meters and vessels under 12 meters fishing with towed gear.

Reactions: "This is a huge threat to Scotland," said Mr Lochhead.

His concerns are that an increase in trade of quota will erode Scotland's historic rights, which could spell doom for many fishing communities - as fishing rights would end up overseas instead of in the hands of future generations of Scottish fishermen.

Europche and Copa-Cogeca reiterate that these may prove to be inappropriate for small-scale coastal fishing and would in any case not be suitable for fishing in the Mediterranean, due to its specific characteristics and socio-economic vulnerability, as the Commission itself recognises. Europche and Copa-Cogeca believe that the establishment and allocation of these concessions should be the responsibility of the Member States.

Conclusion

Whilst there are many positive steps towards sustainable European fisheries, the general consensus is that the current EC proposals are not enough. Further clarification is required, for the reforms to have any radical effects on European fisheries.

July 2011

the Fish Site Editor

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