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Europe unveils plan to reform fishing industry and phase out ‘discards’

Wednesday, July 13th 2011 - 16:35 UTC
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Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki admits failure, after 28 years Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki admits failure, after 28 years

European Commission has unveiled major plans to reform the EU fishing industry and stop catches being wasted. The proposal, due to take effect from 2013, would give fleets quota shares guaranteed for at least 15 years.

“Discards” will be phased out - the practice whereby up to half the catch of some fish is thrown back into the sea to avoid going above the quota.

The environmental group Oceana said the plan had “some positive” aspects but stronger measures were needed. It called the plan “an incomplete work that does not provide the urgently needed strong solutions to restore European seas and ensure the long-term sustainability of fishing”.

The Common Fisheries Policy has been in effect for 28 years, but Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki says it has been a failure.

“There is over-fishing; we have 75% over-fishing of our stocks and comparing ourselves to other countries we cannot be happy,” Ms Damanaki told BBC Radio Four's Today programme. “So we have to change. Let me put it straight - we cannot afford business as usual any more because the stocks are really collapsing.”

The Commission says that in the Mediterranean 82% of fish stocks are over-fished, while in the Atlantic the figure is 63%. Under the new scheme, boats are expected to land all the fish caught, and the whole catch would count against quotas. This would apply to species including mackerel, herring and tuna from the beginning of 2014.

Cod, hake and sole would follow a year later, with virtually every other commercial species coming under the regulation from 2016. The reform also includes plans to restore fish stocks over the long term and allow EU member states to set incentives for the use of selective fishing gear.

The Commission says too many detailed decisions on fisheries have been made by Brussels. It now says it wants to hand back more decision-making powers to member states, so that the industry tailors its actions to local conditions.

“Today, by virtue of the co-decision procedure, even the most detailed technical decisions... have to be taken at the highest political level in the European machinery,” Ms Damanaki complained.

Outlining the new policy, she said “I want to decentralise... the choice of instrument, or instruments' mix, is up to member states, co-operating at regional level”.

The plan aims to: ensure catches are within levels that can “produce the maximum sustainable yields” by 2015; implement an “ecosystem-based approach” to limit the impact of fishing; reduce fleet overcapacity through market measures rather than subsidies; promote the development of “aquaculture activities” to ensure food security and job opportunities and develop alternative types of fish management techniques.

Categories: Fisheries, International.

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