NGOs: CFP reform overlooks overcapacity

The environmental community was quick on Wednesday to weigh in on European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki’s much-anticipated proposals for reform to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including introducing transferable catch shares, taking a more regional approach to fisheries management and phasing out the practice of discarding fish at sea.

Much of eNGOs’ reaction to CFP reform centered on the issues of overcapacity and overfishing.

Uta Bellion, director of the Pew Environment Group’s European marine program and coordinator of the Ocean2012 initiative, applauded Damanaki’s proposal to adopt an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management based on the best available scientific advice but said she failed to adequately address the problem of overcapacity, which leads to overfishing. 

“Instead of mandating a capacity reduction, [Damanaki’s proposal] aims to decrease the EU fishing fleet by what amounts to the quasi-privatization of EU fish resources,” she said. “This type of approach has a mixed track record in other countries and would fail to provide compensation to the public … or to reward those who fish in the most environmentally and socially responsible way.”

Greenpeace also expressed skepticism that the introduction of transferable catch shares, or “concessions,” for vessels over 12 meters long would reduce overfishing.

“Making sure fish stocks recover before they’re wiped out by overfishing makes a lot of sense. Anyone will tell you that more fish means more business for fishermen and a healthier sea,” said Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace’s EU fisheries policy adviser. “But right now it’s hard to see how the EU wants to get there. Trading around fishing quotas won’t stop overfishing, especially without a clear pathway to bring the fleet size in line with how much fish is left in the sea.”

Tony Long, director of the World Wildlife Fund’s European policy office also chimes in on overcapacity and overfishing: “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution for the overcapacity of the EU fleet given the variety of fisheries that exist in Europe. Nor will the market automatically solve this problem. WWF believes it is important to give fishermen a more secure stake in the fishery to boost stewardship, but this should be linked to clear conservation goals. As the proposal stands, this isn’t the case.”

WWF, Greenpeace and Ocean2012 are among the eNGOs sponsoring an event titled “The Future of Europe’s Fisheries” at the Zoological Society of London on Wednesday evening. The event will feature UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, head of the Fish Fight campaign, which is calling for an outright ban on discarding fish at sea. (SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lindsey Partos will be reporting from the event.)

Chris Davies, a UK Liberal Democrat MEP, is among the politicians who have joined the environmental community in calling for an end of the overfishing. On Wednesday, he led a demonstration outside the European Commission in Brussels as Damanaki unveiled her CFP reform proposals.

Click here to read today’s story on politicians and the industry’s reaction to Damanaki’s CFP reform proposals.


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