Damanaki: Time to find common ground
Finding common ground among stakeholders — without weakening the effectiveness of a reformed Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) or sacrificing the health of Europe’s fish stocks — is an attainable goal, said European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki at the European Seafood Exposition on Wednesday.
Damanaki addressed a crowd at an Industry Alliance for CFP Reform-organized discussion held at the European Commission stand. At the talk, organization representatives addressed overfishing, discarding fish at sea and other fisheries-related issues that are threatening the future of Europe’s fish stocks.
The discussion’s timing is critical, as the EC is due to publish a proposal for a reformed CFP in July, at which time the proposal will be submitted to the European Parliament. According to Damanaki, delivery of a reformed CFP is “the main priority” for 2012.
On Wednesday, Damanaki emphasized the need to be “ambitious.”
“We have to fish in a way that ensures fish stocks are healthy,” she said. “We are going to continue the dialogue; we are going to try to find common [ground] between everybody. [In] July, the commission will come forward with a proposal. And this proposal will be ambitious, because we really need to change things. If we don’t change things, only eight of our 136 fish stocks will [continue to] be healthy. Only eight.”
But, added Damanaki, not all stakeholders will be satisfied with the reformed CFP.
“We can’t have a proposal that pleases everybody, but at least we’re trying to find common ground,” said Damanaki.
“Next year will be critical,” she continued. “I hope to come here next year and say to you, ‘Some good work was done.’ The job won’t be easy, but we have to try.”
Damanaki commended the Industry Alliance for CFP Reform, calling it “strong” and praising its efforts to bring about change to the CFP and help lay the foundation for sustainable fisheries. “This alliance has a message. What is the message? The message is that there is a common interest [among] industry, fishermen, NGOs, consumers, [professional] chefs. We are trying to find a common interest in our proposal.”
The Industry Alliance for CFP Reform was established by the World Wildlife Fund, EU Fish Processors’ and Traders’ Association (AIPCE-CEP) and Eurocommerce at last year’s European Seafood Exposition. Since then, Euro Coop (which represents consumer cooperatives) and Euro-Toques (which represents chefs) have joined the cause.
Also addressing the crowd on Wednesday were WWF’s Alfred Schumm, Guus Pastoor of AIPCE-CEP, Aldin Hilbrands of Royal Ahold (representing Eurocommerce) Evan Doyle of Euro-Toques and Rosita Zilli of Euro Coop.
Speakers cited a WWF-administered survey released in April that found 88 percent of consumers in 14 EU states want the seafood they buy to come from sustainable sources. The survey also found that 72 percent of consumers do not feel they have adequate information on the origin of the seafood they purchase.
“An overwhelming majority of European citizens want fish products to come from sources that aren’t overfished,” said Zilli. “The ultimate goal of this reform should be that all available fish is supplied from sustainable sources and with sustainable methods. Because, at Euro Coop, we think that placing the responsibility on consumers would mean a lower level of ambition in achieving this target.”