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Reforms 'will not stop overfishing'

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Campiagners have claimed plans to reform Europe's fishing industry would not stop the destruction of fish stocks for at least 10 years

Campiagners have claimed plans to reform Europe's fishing industry would not stop the destruction of fish stocks for at least 10 years

Campiagners have claimed plans to reform Europe's fishing industry would not stop the destruction of fish stocks for at least 10 years

Plans to reform Europe's fishing industry would not stop the destruction of fish stocks for at least another decade, campaigners claim.

Greenpeace activists chained themselves to fishing buoys outside talks in Luxembourg while others waved banners demanding: "EU ministers, stop overfishing".

Greenpeace oceans campaigner Thilo Maack said: "Ministers are acting irresponsibly, endangering the future of our seas. The deal would allow a greedy industry to continue overfishing for the next decade, bank-rolled by millions in EU subsidies. We cannot allow this to happen and this is why we want ministers to find the guts to stop destructive fishing and reward those who fish responsibly."

On the table for Europe's fisheries ministers are the latest European Commission proposals for balancing fishermen's livelihoods with the need to conserve stocks for the long-term survival of the sector. After years of dwindling white fish stocks and declining fishing communities, the Commission is also backing growing public resentment that the current CFP encourages "discards" - the dumping of dead fish back in the sea.

The issue has been publicised across the UK by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, whose "Hugh's Fish Fight" campaign has been praised by Brussels amid pledges to change a system which forces fleets to dump their "by-catch" - any non-quota fish species they have netted accidentally - or face penalties.

The commission also wants to bring in a long-term fish quota management system, rather than the discredited annual haggling in which ministers wrangle to raise catch quotas for their own fleets in defiance of scientific warnings about the need for cuts. The reform plan calls for more accurate scientific evidence on which to base decisions, and for an end to "micro-managing" the fisheries policy in Brussels. Instead, day to day decision-making would be devolved to regional fisheries bodies across Europe.

The commission says that in 2004 alone, an estimated 7.3 million tonnes of fish - 8% of the total EU fish catches in that year - were dumped back in the sea. In the European whitefish industry, up to half the catch is thrown overboard - and as much as 70% in the flatfish industry.

Last year the North Sea fishery nations - Britain, France, Germany and Denmark - signed a joint declaration committing themselves to end the discard system. But no final decisions will be reached on Tuesday - the aim is an agreement on the "general approach" towards putting EU fisheries back on a sustainable footing.

The commission's proposals include a target of 2015 to end overfishing, by complying with "maximum sustainable yield" quota targets, a complete ban on "discards" by 2016 and a new obligation on national authorities to collect catch data to improve the scientific advice on which catch limits are based. The commission is also calling for more "regional" fisheries management, leaving member states to set the most suitable technical and conservation measures for their own waters.

Campaign groups fear a compromise on overfishing will see ministers decide to delay the 2015 target for complying with "maximum sustainable yields" until 2020. UK Independence Party leader and MEP Nigel Farage, a member of the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee, said the reform proposals amounted to "an admittance by the commission that the CFP has been an economic and ecological disaster".

PA