EU: Lack of political will hampers fish stocks

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
November 23, 2009

The European Union's fisheries council gathered in Brussels on Friday to discuss proposals from the European Commission to amend fishing regulations regarding mesh size and gear types, minimum landing sizes, closed areas and seasons.
 
While the council reports the meeting ushered in "substantial progress on draft regulation on technical measures to better conserve fish stocks, to cut down discards and to protect vulnerable marine habitats," the World Wildlife Fund criticized the lack of "immediate solutions" to the depleted stocks.
 
"It is rumored that after strong opposition from France and Spain the proposal was rejected," said the WWF.
 
"There is no reason to wait till 2012 for a new reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to address the problem of fish discards, when something can be done today," added Aaron McLoughlin, head of WWF's European marine program.
 
Technical measures, contends the EC, play a key role in "ensuring sustainable fisheries," alongside catch and effort limitations, and are "particularly valuable" in protecting fish stocks and juvenile fish and avoiding discards. They typically include such provisions as minimum landing sizes, rules governing mesh size and gear types that vessels can use, plus additional selectivity requirements such as square mesh panels, as well as closed areas and seasons.
 
Described prior to the council meeting by Scotland's Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead as a "highly complex piece of legislation," the proposed Technical Conservation rules from the EC set out to simplify existing rules.
 
In a statement before the meeting, the EC said the EU presidency would be looking for a political agreement on the proposal. But with a lack of consensus on Friday, the council agreed to hand over this dossier to the Spanish presidency that kicks off on 1 January, 2010, as it will have to be concluded under the co-decision procedure.

Ministers did, however, reach a unanimous political agreement on draft rules fixing fishing opportunities in the Black Sea for 2010. The council agreed on a TAC (total allowable catch) of 96 metric tons — shared equally between Bulgaria and Romania — for turbot (Psetta maxima). This figure is considerably higher than the 76 metric ton TAC proposed by the EC prior to the meeting, and represents just a slight 4 percent fall from this year's TAC.
 
The agreement also includes a ban for turbot fishing from 15 April to 15 June, a minimum landing size of 45 centimeters and the use of a 400-millimeter minimum legal mesh size for bottom-set nets.
 
The 12,750-metric-ton quota for sprat (Sprattus sprattus) is effectively a rollover from this year.

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