Flak Flies Over European Fish Conservation

BRUSSELS, Belgium, September 25, 2002 (ENS) - A major political battle over the future of European Union fisheries policies got underway in Brussels Tuesday with a first ministerial debate on radical reform proposals from the European Commission.

The six-nation "friends of fishing" group antagonized both the Commission and the EU's Danish Presidency by releasing immediately after the meeting a series of counter-proposals aimed at limiting the scope of the reforms.

Released in May, the Commission's proposals aim to reverse chronic overfishing and preserve stocks by dropping annual fishing quota-setting in favor of multi-annual plans, and by shifting power over decisions away from member states.


Spanish fishermen haul a tuna aboard with gaff hooks. Bay of Biscay, Atlantic Ocean (Photo by Andrey Urcelayeta courtesy FAO)
Governments have been urged to reach agreement on three linked regulations by the end of the year.

Many European Union countries support the Commission's general thrust, accepting that existing procedures have consistently failed to reconcile ever more powerful fishing fleets with limited stocks.

But the friends of fishing bloc, made up of France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, is strongly opposed to any changes that would harm fishing communities or weaken governmental control over fisheries management.

The Danish Presidency focused yesterday's debate on the Commission's proposals for multi-annual fisheries management, on cutting public subsidies for new fishing vessels, and on strengthening enforcement of fisheries controls.

Only on the last of these was it able to claim general support for the Commission's plan.

In its paper, the friends of fishing group rejects general application of multi-annual management plans and says the most appropriate management solutions should be defined case by case, based on scientific advice.

It affirms that any limits on fishing effort or catches must be set by the council of ministers, and defends continued public support for modernization and renewal of the fishing fleet.

It also urges continued financial support for the export of EU fishing vessels to third countries.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}