Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Fisheries policy shake-up planned

MEPs are set to force change on ministers accused of years of failure to get to grips with excess fishing and dwindling supplies

The biggest shake-up in the history of the EU's fisheries policy will massively boost fish stocks and fishermen's incomes and create a third more jobs in the sector, it has been claimed.

Efforts to rewrite the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) have been given a boost by new decision-making powers expected to be used by MEPs on Wednesday to force change on ministers accused of years of failure to get to grips with excess fishing and dwindling supplies.

On the eve of the vote, EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki told a European Parliament debate in Strasbourg: "We have to change the policy to stop over-fishing. We have a chance to create a decent living (for fishermen)."

Ms Damanaki, who once described the CFP as "broken", went on: "If we go through with this deal, by 2020 we are going to increase the fish in our seas by 15 million tonnes and the fish landed by our fishermen by half a million tonnes. We will also increase incomes by 2022 by 25% and create 30% more jobs.

The plans on the table include an end to the ridiculed practice of "discards" - throwing dead fish back into the sea - because of strict CFP rules on the size of landed catches.

"We can't justify discarding any more. We can't explain to anybody that we have to throw away 23% - this is the average - of the fish we catch."

The MEPs' vote will trigger three-way final negotiations between the Commission, MEPs and EU fisheries ministers before a final agreement is forged. But the fact that the European Parliament now has "co-decision" powers over fishing policy means more clout for those demanding major changes.

And the Irish government, currently holding the six-month EU presidency, has made clear it is backing tough measures.

Ireland's Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Simon Coveney - a former MEP - told the European Parliament: "For the first time the European Parliament will be fundamentally a partner in the decision-making process over CFP reform.

"We can make something significant happen with a new CFP, but there is a real danger that if we don't grasp this opportunity we may lose momentum. Our citizens would not forgive us easily, for there is no reason for us to delay any longer after debating this for more than two years."

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