Damanaki makes first official visit to France

Maria Damanaki, the Europe Union’s new fisheries commissioner, this week gave the green light to EUR 30 million in funding to aid French oyster farmers impacted by disease.

Bruno Le Maire, France’s agriculture minister, announced the cash injection during Damanaki’s first official visit to France since embracing her new role.

Oyster production in France is currently being hit by a virus that is killing juvenile oysters. According  to the country’s shellfish organization, Comite National de La Conchyliculture (CNC), the virus — which also hit juveniles last year — threatens about one-quarter of France’s 4,200 shellfish firms. France produces about 130,000 metric tons of oysters annually, but such is the extent of the mortality that the CNC expects production to fall 40 percent this year.

On her visit to Brittany, a major fishing region on France’s western coast, Damanaki also met with stakeholders in the fishing industry. Europe is currently in the throes of discussions pertaining to reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

And on the topic of the CFP, Damanaki was quoted in Brittany newspaper Le Telegramme as saying, “The time when ministers came to the table to haggle is finished. I want this no more. They cannot take decisions alone. It’s not up to them to decide the nets in Brittany or Sicily. It is necessary to decentralize and regionalize fishing policy.”

Damanaki’s comments come as momentum for reform to the CFP picks up, and with it inter-governmental discussions at the EU level and negotiations by the fishing nations.

“I will fight against those who want to liberalize fishing. I feel that the ideal model is from fisherman to consumer,” Damanaki told Le Telegramme.

“We are convinced that it is necessary to manage the resource in order to regulate the market,” added Le Maire.

Last week, fisheries ministers met in Vigo, Spain, the EU’s largest port, to hammer out the foundation of a reformed CFP. Spain, which has Europe’s largest fishing fleet, supported a system of fishing rights within European countries. This would enable fishing firms to purchase catch quotas assigned to other companies. But the notion of transferable quotas was largely met with rejection by other EU nations, including France, over concerns that powerful foreign companies could take on their quotas.

Among the 27 EU member states, Spain and Denmark are the biggest producers in terms of volume of seafood. Spain produced more than 1 million metric tons of seafood in 2006, followed by Denmark at 895,750 metric tons and France at 853,669 metric tons.

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