Politicians, industry react to CFP reform


Steven Hedlund

Published on
July 12, 2011

Politicians and members of the fishing and seafood communities were quick to chime in on Wednesday after European Union Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki unveiled her much-anticipated proposals for reform to the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), including phasing out the practice of discarding fish at sea, introducing transferable catch shares and taking a more regional approach to fisheries management.

UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon called Damanaki’s proposals “a vital first step,” adding that he and other politicians are ready to work with Damanaki and the European Commission on finding common ground. He emphasized that a “one-size-fits-all” approach to fisheries management — a common criticism of the current CFP, last reformed in 2002 — will not work and that flexibility is necessary to tackle the range of challenges facing the fishing community, particularly discards.

“This is the start of lengthy negotiations, and we will play a full part in helping to improve them,” said Benyon. “I am confident that we can make the case for the radical reform that is needed, alongside our allies at home and abroad, to grasp this once in a decade opportunity.”

Irish Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney also welcomed Damanaki’s proposals. “It is clear to me that we need to aggressively reform the current policy,” he said.

Though he supports many of Damanaki’s proposals, Coveney disagrees with Damanaki’s proposal to introducing transferable catch shares. “I am very disappointed that the commissioner has decided to impose this scheme of mandatory privatization of quotas on member states,” he said. “I have expressed my grave concerns that this policy, if adopted, will lead to the family-owned fishing fleet here in Ireland being bought up by European international companies who have the capital to buy out our quotas.”

Like Coveney, Scottish Fisheries Secretary Richard Lochhead welcomed Damanaki’s proposals but expressed concern with some of her ideas, including an outright ban on discards, which he called “counter-productive.”

“We should be working with fishermen on practical measures that would stop these discarded fish being caught in the first place,” he said.

Lochhead also said Damanaki’s proposal to take a more regional approach to fisheries management, giving more control to regions and members states, doesn’t go far enough. “In the complex mixed-fishery of the North Sea it makes sense for Scotland and other nations to have more control over their own fisheries, working in partnership with neighboring maritime nations,” he said.

Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson didn’t mince words in calling Damanaki’s CFP reform proposals “modest” and “disappointing.”

“After months of waiting, great excitement and anticipation of a radical package of reform for the CFP, these proposals have turned out to be a disappointment. They are far from the radical change needed. At best they can be described as modest,” he said. “We must restore a significant level of de-centralization and regionalization into the reform package. Control must be wrested away from the micro-managers in Brussels. Their dead-hand over the past three decades has devastated EU fish stocks and destroyed tens of thousands of jobs in the industry.” 

Seafish (the UK’s Sea Fish Industry Authority), the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) and Europêche (Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the EU) also reacted to Wednesday’s news.

Seafish welcomed Damanaki’s proposals, calling then “ a significant step toward long-term fisheries sustainability.”

“We welcome today’s proposals that will hopefully result in the CFP delivering better outcomes on its basic commitments to economic, social and environmental sustainability. In particular, we are pleased to see a move to a decentralised approach to fisheries management and rule simplification, coupled with a longer-term ecosystem approach to fisheries management. This will give more control and responsibility back to individual fisheries,” said Dr. Jon Harman, Seafish operations director.

But Harmon added that Seafish “would like more clarification on the logistics of how a complete ban [on discards] will be achieved and enforced. There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution, especially for mixed fisheries around the UK, so we urge the EU to adopt a risk-based approach.”

Similarly, the SFF called some of Damanaki’s proposals “a step in the right direction” but expressed “grave concern” over others, particularly an outright ban on discards. 

“Scottish fishermen abhor discarding, but in the complex mixed fisheries that our fleet operates in it is totally impracticable to ban discards altogether,” said SFF CEO Bertie Armstrong. “Scottish fishermen have been making huge strides in reducing the amount of fish discarded in recent years by adopting conservation initiatives such as closed fishing areas and more selective fishing gear. Such a sensible strategy is working and needs to be further developed, and we will be arguing strongly that this is the most sensible and practical path to take.”

Europêche President Javier Garat and Giampaolo Buonfiglio, chairman of the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Fish, said Damanaki’s proposals fail to take into account the work the industry has already done to boost fish stocks and reduce overfishing, adding that the new CFP would “completely ignore the economic and social consequences it will have [due to] the significant reduction in the number of jobs that is expected in the short-term, particularly in the fish-harvesting sector.”

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

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