Change We Can
This morning around 3:30 am politicians in Europe struck a deal to reform Europe’s fisheries.
It’s a large step forward. Some will say it is not perfect, but nothing ever made of human hands, let alone from the hands of politicians, ever is. But, it is a major step forward.
The FT View
Joshua Chaffin’s piece in today’s FT is well worth reading:
EU agrees to end decades of overfishing
By Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
European fleets will have to end overfishing by the end of the decade and substantially abandon the practice of discarding after the EU agreed a sweeping overhaul of its troubled fisheries policy.
The agreement – between representatives from the European Commission, the parliament and member states – came shortly after 3am on Thursday morning following an all-night bargaining session that was, itself, preceded by more than a year of negotiations.
Maria Damanaki, the fisheries commissioner, called the reform a “historical step for all those involved in fisheries”, saying: “We are going to change radically the way we fish in the future.”
The centrepiece of the reform is a requirement that all EU stocks be fished at sustainable levels by 2020, with most required to meet that standard in 2015.
That means catch limits must be based on scientific recommendations about the maximum number of fish that can be harvested without damaging a stock’s ability to replenish itself.
The reform will also reduce the ruinous practice of discarding, in which fish are thrown overboard at sea so that fleets can return to shore with only the most valuable catch.
Discards will be limited in the coming years to no more than 5 per cent of the total catch, with member states required to seek special permission from the commission.
The UK, in particular, has argued that some discards must be tolerated because certain species swim together and cannot be easily separated.
The EU is the world’s biggest consumer of fish. Yet about two-thirds of its stocks are currently overfished, according to the commission. In the Mediterranean, the figure is more than 80 per cent.
European politicians have for years routinely ignored scientific advice while providing subsidies to underwrite ever-larger fleets.
The common fisheries policy’s quota system and Byzantine rules has been blamed for creating perverse, unintended consequences while rankling local authorities by concentrating decision-making powers in Brussels.
“We have learnt lessons from the existing common fisheries policy, which in some areas has failed,” said Simon Coveney, Ireland’s fisheries minister, who helped to shepherd through the final deal.
The agreement, which must be rubber-stamped by the full parliament and member states, will give more authority to local authorities to manage fisheries. It also seeks to reward low-impact, environmentally-sound fishermen by urging national governments to grant them bigger shares of annual quotas.
Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace’s fisheries policy director, 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.”
Ms Richartz also complained that the agreement – while it would curb overfishing – did not contain binding deadlines to rebuild damaged stocks and exempted some species from the discarding restrictions. “It is disappointing,” she said.
Uta Bellion, a spokesman for the Pew environmental trust, said the parties had “made history” with the agreement. “They agreed to rebuild fish stocks, set a legally binding target to end overfishing, and committed to reducing by catch and discarding. This is a well-deserved success for Commissioner Maria Damanaki, and a testament to her vision.”