Q&A: Stevenson weighs in on CFP reform
By Chris Dove, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain
21 June, 2012
The European Parliament Fisheries Committee (PECH) met in Brussels on Wednesday to vote on the first Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) reform regulation concerning the EU regime for managing the market for seafood products, often referred to as “common organization of the market.” The agenda also included voting on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources, and common provisions regarding EU funding.
Organized by PECH Chair and Spanish representative Gabriel Mato Adrover, and conducted by UK MEP Struan Stevenson, highlights of the meeting included decisions on selling the estimated 1.6 million metric tons of annual discards at market rates to the processing sector for fish oil, fishmeal, pet food and bait, rather than distributing free to charities as had been suggested, which would have undermined the market. A proportion of the proceeds from such sales would go to vessel owners for landing the fish, and the rest would be used to establish a new EU fund supporting data collection and scientific conservation.
Agreement was also reached on the inclusion of catch rather than landing dates on product labels, as was the introduction of an EU eco-label, possibly in association with the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Stevenson applauded the European Commission’s “very satisfying, widespread support” for an EU eco-label, citing consumer recognition of the EU flag to instill greater confidence in and purchase of sustainable species. A “substantial” 19 votes to 6 were carried in favor of introducing such a scheme, which would come into operation by 1 January 2015.
In addition to supporting an enhanced role for fisheries management organizations on the devolution of day-to-day activities to member states, Parliament aims to foster better market intelligence gathering “to improve profitability for everyone from skippers to suppliers” by sharing know-how in new technologies such as vessel satellite monitoring, CCTV, electronic logbooks and electronic markets in bigger ports.
The next plenary vote will take place in September 2012 in Strasbourg, France, prior to the deadline for agreement on a new CFP by the end of next year.
Following the PECH meeting, SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Chris Dove asked Stevenson about CFP reform as it relates to Spain.
Dove: You cited Spanish fishermen’s preference for eco-label landing dates to catch dates, and the Spanish fleets’ good practice in the use of on-board technologies. Is Spain taking a leading role in proposing solutions to CFP reform?
Stevenson: The commission proposed a mandatory catch date on labels of all EU fishery products. This is discriminatory to larger vessels at sea for long periods, yet whose catch is kept on liquid ice and is perfectly fresh in prime condition. Consumers will undoubtedly favor a fishery product whose label indicates that it was caught more recently, yet both fishery products are of equal freshness.
How can the EU achieve “the level playing field” that’s been long requested?
Because smaller inshore vessels can catch and land within half a day, I proposed a landing date to create a level playing field. Catch date can appear on the voluntary rather than mandatory part of the label. As an EU eco-label became increasingly sought after by consumers, it would be introduced to non-EU fisheries if they abided by the same EU hygiene, welfare and even socio-economic rules.
Spain is negotiating difficult talks over access to Gibraltar and Morocco waters. How can this matter best be resolved?
The issue between Spain and Gibraltar over fishing rights can only ever be resolved if we enter into a discussion over sovereignty. This will only happen when the people of Gibraltar agree by a majority to enter into such discussions. This is their right of self-determination as Gibraltar elects a British Member of the European Parliament.
21 June, 2012