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EU fisheries chief seeks policy reforms
by Staff Writers
Brussels (UPI) Jul 13, 2011

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Europe's fisheries won't survive under current policies and a new package of reforms will offer much-needed changes, the European Union's maritime affairs chief says.

The European Commission was set to produce broad new proposals to modify the EU Common Fisheries Policy at a time when dwindling stocks are forcing member nations to import more and more of their fish supplies.

European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki warned, "If we don't act, we will lose one fish stock after the other."

She told a European Parliament fishing task force last month "the prospects without change are grim," warning that failure to restock EU fisheries would create a permanent ecological void in the oceans that other species would fill.

Also, the fishing industry would continue to lose jobs, which would affect the processing industry, transportation, ports, packagers and retailers.

"And all of us, as consumers, will end up with less fish on our plates," Damanaki said.

Recent economic modeling, looking to 2022, indicated that merely continuing the present Common Fisheries Policy would result in only 9 percent of the EU's fishing stocks remaining sustainable.

Meanwhile, Europe's fishing fleets would remain at overcapacity despite shrinking a further 15 percent, thanks to technological advances. Thus overfishing would continue, as would the need for continued government subsidies for the industry.

"Maintaining the current level of subsidies would simply postpone the inevitable and would do this at a high cost to taxpayers," Damanaki said, adding such subsidies come at "a heavy environmental cost and throw us deeper into the vicious circle."

The commissioner said last month at the GLOBE World Oceans Day Forum in London her reforms will seek to make legally binding a commitment to reach "maximum sustainable yield" by 2015 -- an approach is based on a long-term strategy whereby catch rates are fixed, thus enabling fish stocks to reproduce so that exploitation "can occur in sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions."

The EC, she said, will also seek to devolve responsibility for enforcing the "nitty-gritty" of fishery management to regional groups of nations that border specific fisheries and to put an end to the "unethical" practice of discarding fish.

The reforms to EU policy are indeed much-needed, agreed a report issued Monday by the British think tank New Economics Foundation, which said European consumers are increasingly reliant on imports to feed their fish habits.

Britain, for instance, would run out of fish by July 16 if it were to only consume home-caught fish for the entire 2011 calendar year, NEF said. That's three weeks earlier than last year's date of Aug. 4 and six weeks earlier than in 1995, showing an increasing reliance on fish from abroad.

The problem with current policies is they promote overconsumption of fish in a bid to help the ailing industries rather than strictly limiting the amount caught, report co-author Aniol Esteban said.

"Fish stock restoration deserves more attention than the promotion of fish consumption," he told the British newspaper The Independent.

Rather than focusing on the "the short-term costs" that would result from strictly limiting access to dwindling fisheries, policymakers need instead to "give priority to the long-term benefits that healthy marine resources will provide for the environment, the economy and society," Esteban said.

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EU fisheries reform gets cool reception
Brussels (AFP) July 13, 2011 - The EU's fisheries commissioner called Wednesday for a sector overhaul to keep stocks alive for future generations but environmentalists and the industry were cool to her ideas.

Maria Damanaki unveiled a sweeping plan aimed at cutting overfishing and replenish fish stocks by 2015, with a system that would allow fishermen to trade their catch quotas at the national level.

Her plan would also ban by 2016 the practice of throwing discarded fish overboard, providing fishermen incentives to either transform those fish into flour, freeze them or donate them to food pantries.

"I'm not an environmentalist, I'm not a fisherman, my job is to find a balance so that we can fish in the future, so our children will have fish," she told AFP in an interview.

"If it's business as usual, in 10 years only eight out of 136 stocks will be healthy," she said, on the basis of assessments that 75 percent of European Union stocks are overfished.

Damanaki's overarching aim is to have stocks delivering a "maximum sustainable yield" by "no later than 2015."

To do this, she wants markets essentially to achieve what politicians cannot -- to hack back the size of Europe's fishing fleet, already decimated in many coastal areas by reforms allowing big Spanish or French boats to roam well beyond their traditional waters.

Reducing the size of the world's third biggest fishing power -- after China and Peru -- will take place by introducing individual quotas, or "concessions", that a fisherman can sell off to the highest bidder should he wish to pack in the job.

Similar systems of concessions have enabled Denmark to reduce its fleet by 30 percent in four years and have kept the fishing sector healthy in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Norway, she said. Europe's fleet capacity falls around two percent per year.

"Transferable fishing concessions ... should contribute to industry-induced fleet reductions and improved economic performance," the proposal states, a euphemism for more painful downsizing for trawlermen.

Small boats under 12 metres (yards) will be exempt if the EU member states choose to do so, the plans underline.

The environmentalist group WWF lamented that the reform proposed by Damanki was "not ambitious."

"While the European Commission's proposal contains some potentially good elements, too much is being left to chance," said Tony Long, director of WWF's European policy office.

WWF said the proposed quota trading scheme was "inflexible" and lacked safeguards to prevent a concentration of fishing activities to a small number of vessels.

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Save the fish and feed the people, says EU fisheries chief
Brussels (AFP) July 13, 2011
"Our children will have fish," says Europe's fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, the Greek official behind an ambitious plan released Wednesday to replenish withering fish stocks within four years. Under a scheme upsetting big fishing states France and Spain even before its release, the Greek commissioner is proposing the novel idea of fishermen trading quotas at the national level. " ... read more

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