After 2-years of negotiations, the European Union (EU) agrees a workable deal on fisheries reform to recover fish stocks and support low-impact fishing.
Following late-night talks, Irish fisheries minister Simon Coveney, representing the Council of European ministers, and European Parliament negotiator Ulrike Rodust MEP, announced in a press conference that a compromise had been reached on the main aspects of reform.
The Parliament and EU ministers have been at odds over how ambitious the EU’s failing Common Fisheries Policy should be.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “For decades in Europe, fishing has been a story of decline, with severe overexploitation of fish stocks and small-scale fishermen squeezed out of business by a minority of profiteering fishing barons. The deal that is emerging today is good news, even if we are disappointed that ministers blocked a deadline for the recovery of fish stocks. For the first time, the EU has recognised the value of low-impact fishermen by highlighting the need for social and environmental criteria in the allocation of fishing quotas.”
The compromise between the European Parliament and the Council sets an obligation to end overfishing by 2015 for most stocks, but allows an additional five years in exceptional cases where reductions in fishing pressure may “seriously jeopardise the social and economic sustainability of the fishing fleets”. The deal also includes a commitment to rebuild fish stocks, but fails to include a deadline to achieve sustainable stock levels. Crucially, the new rules will now require governments to eliminate excessive fishing capacity in their fleets and to use transparent environmental and social criteria when allocating access to fishing grounds and quotas. In addition, it will in future be prohibited for EU vessels to overfish the waters of other nations. The amount of fish that can be discarded at sea will also be reduced.
The compromise still needs approval by a committee of permanent representatives from EU member states known as Coreper and some technical details still require fine-tuning. This is also not quite the end of the line on EU fisheries reform: the new framework for EU fisheries subsidies still has to be agreed.