Fearnley-Whittingstall: ‘Applaud Damanaki’


Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
July 13, 2011

Editor’s note: SeafoodSource Contributing Editor Lindsey Partos attended Wednesday evening’s “The Future of Europe’s Fisheries” event in London. 

“We should applaud Damanaki,” British celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, head of the Fish Fight initiative, told a multi-stakeholder audience on Wednesday evening.

Sitting alongside UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, Fearnley-Whittingstall’s comments came in response to the reform proposals for the much-maligned Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), unveiled by European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki on Wednesday morning. Fearnley-Whittingstall, Benyon and others participated an event titled “The Future of Europe’s Fisheries” at the Zoological Society of London on Wednesday evening. It was organized by a number of environmental NGOs, including the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace and Ocean2012.

While the celebrity chef — whose campaign fought to end the practice of discarding fish at sea — called the proposals “encouraging.” He said the new policy should emphasize ways to “avoid catching discards in the first place.”

Under Damanaki’s proposal, all commercial catches would be required to landed, with the phasing out of fishermen throwing non-quota fish overboard, also known as discards or “insane waste,” said Fearnley-Whittingstall.

Echoing this view, Dr. Euan Dunn, head of marine policy at wildlife charity The RSPB, said the main focus of the proposals “should be to avoid catching” the unwanted fish. 

Speaking on behalf of the UK NGO coalition — which includes Ocean2012, Greenpeace, and the new economics foundation (nef) — Dunn reminded the audience that fishing was “a privilege not a right.” And he asserted that Damanaki’s document “offers a lot to build on, but needs ripening.”

He warned that the proposals were not “prescriptive enough” on overcapacity and cited the United States, where legally binding goals had been the “single most powerful instrument for sustainability.”

Damanaki’s proposal of “transferable catch shares” received a lukewarm response from stakeholders. Known as “concessions,” the rights would be distributed by member states and based on agreed criteria set at an EU level. According to the proposal, operators could lease or trade their 15-year concessions within their member states, but not between other member states. 

On the sticky topic of rights-based management, Conservative MP Richard Benyon, the government’s fisheries minister and a strident supporter of EU fisheries management reform, said these tradable quotas “deserved a chance as a tool.” But he also suggested they could not on their own solve the problem of overcapacity in the European fishing fleet and the “capacity issue is one of the weaker parts of the proposal.”

Indeed, earlier in the day, Damanaki herself had told journalists that she shares concerns on concessions: “We’d like to introduce this market instrument, but we don't want abuse by the aggression of some markets,” she said.

On the thorny issue of job losses in the sector as a result of the reform, Damanaki reminded listeners that the “problem was not created by the reform, the problem is already there. The fisheries are not profitable any more; we don’t have the fish.”

Concurring, Dunn, on behalf of nef, said the view that setting stricter fishing limit will put fishermen out of jobs needed to be challenged.

“It’s actually the opposite,” he said. Any action that delays the restoration of fish stocks is “bad in the long run” for fishermen, the seafood industry, the marine environment and society as a whole.

Benyon added that he wanted to see a stronger regionalization in the new CFP. Regionalization — taking decisions closer to fishing grounds — is seen as a more efficient framework to today’s top-down, micro-management approach in Brussels.


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

Click here to read Wednesday’s story on the environmental community’s reaction to the CFP reform proposals.


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