By Pilar Caride, SeafoodSourcecontributing editor, reporting from Vigo, Spain
Published on 17 July, 2013
As the E.U. Permanent Representatives Committee prepares to finalize a comprehensive reform of Europe’s common fisheries policy (CFP), many voices in Spain’s government and fisheries sector are speaking out against the reforms.
The European Parliament and the European Council came to an agreement on 30 May as to what the final version of the CFP should look like, covering issues from discards to catch limits.
Representatives of the Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca), made up of 48 associations of shipowners, consider the reform unbalanced and unrealistic, and said it will involve additional sacrifices for companies and workers within the fisheries sector, among other consequences.
“It does not solve the problems related to the applicability of some of its measures, and, although some aspects are more flexible, such as discards or the Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY), it leaves the fleet defenseless against the obligation of observing regulations far from the fisheries’ reality and the recommendations from the European fisheries sector,” Javier Garat, the group’s secretary general, said in a statement.
Among the deficiencies of the reform, Garat highlighted the “near-complete” lack of social and economic sustainability of the new CFP. Regarding discards, Garat and Cepesca cited a number of problems. They said actual catch composition has not been taken into account; the relative stability has not been updated; management measures have not been duly adapted and a new management system based on transferable fishing rights within the whole EU has not been implemented.
Industry leaders aren’t the only ones seeing deficiencies in the CFP reform. By the end of June, the Economic and Social Council (CES) — the institution that advises the government on social, economic and labor issues — released its own report on the reform’s impact. The report contained comments from members of the fisheries sector, regional business groups and trade unions.
According to the report, the proposal’s approach on the social dimension is still superficial, and there are no suggestions aimed at improving the fishermen’s life and working conditions. The report also points out problems in five specific fields: the scientific, technical and economic knowledge on the sector; the social dimension; the processing and commercialization industry; the internalization of fishing companies; and the definition and handling proposed for artisanal fisheries.
As for discards, according to the CES report, “finding out the origin of the problem is essential for the CES. In the case of Spain, it is more related to the application of the relative-stability criterion than to the use of specific gears.”
The report includes recommendations, such as permitting permanent exchanges of quotas with other member states in order to adapt to changing catch compositions.
Regional Minister of the Sea, Rosa Quintana, attending a presentation of the CES report in Vigo, spoke out against what she saw as the CFP’s relative stability principle.
“Managing a dynamic environment as the sea and a changing activity as fisheries as if it was a fixed and out-of-focus photograph is a mistake,” she said.
On a positive note, Quintana highlighted the establishment of a MSY for the species and the flexibility of temporary periods and the elimination of discards as productive steps.
Carlos Domínguez, Secretary General for Fisheries, also attended the presentation of the report. In late May, he said the agreement on a final version of the CFP “provides a reasonable timetable” to introduce the prohibition of discards and includes elements that can enable the Spanish fleet “to observe this prohibition without excessive sacrifices.”