24th Oct 2016

MEPs back end to fish discard 'madness'

  • 75% of stocks are overfished says the Commission. (Photo: Bruno de Giusti)

MEPs have voted in more eco-friendly rules on fish discards as part of a package to reform the EU's much-maligned common fisheries policy (CFP).

The Strasbourg Parliament voted on Wednesday (6 February) by 502 to 137 in favour of the new regime which will take effect in 2014.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

The quota system of total allowable catches for each type of fish was introduced in 1983 in an attempt to preserve fish stocks.

However, overfishing has remained a chronic problem, with figures presented by the European Commission suggesting that 80 percent of Mediterranean fish stocks and 47 percent of Atlantic ones are overfished and becoming dangerously depleted.

Currently, 23 percent of caught fish are thrown back into the sea because they exceed quotas.

But German centre-left MEP, Ulrike Rodust, who piloted the legislation through Parliament, insisted that the national quota system should be replaced by an eco-friendly system based on "maximum sustainable yield" based on the replenishment of stocks. The provisions will enter into force from 2015,

Speaking in Strasbourg, Rodust commented that MEPs had "used our power as a co-legislator, for the first time in fisheries policy, to put a stop to overfishing."

"Fish stocks should recover by 2020, enabling us to take 15 million tonnes more fish, and create 37,000 new jobs,"she added.

Meanwhile, deputies backed the creation of a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), with a budget of €6.7 billion, to support the industry and, in particular, small-scale coastal fleets. Member states will be able to restrict fishing in a zone within 12 nautical miles of the coast, up to the year 2022.

MEPs rejected the EU executive's plan for a scheme of catch shares called "concessions" for trawlers who would then be able to trade their shares with other fleets.

The vote marks the first time that the parliament has used its powers as a co-legislator on the common fisheries policy under the Lisbon treaty.

Speaking on behalf of the Irish presidency, fisheries minister Simon Coveney said that the discards policy is "indefensible" and added that lawmakers should focus on "a sustainable management of fish stocks that can protect fish in the sea but also can protect rural, coastal and fishing communities that rely for their living and their income on a fishing industry. "

Coveney told MEPs that negotiations between governments and the parliament would start within the coming weeks, with a view to securing a deal by the end of the Irish presidency in June.

Over 3,000 amendments were tabled to the commission proposal by MEPs before a compromise was reached between the centre-left Socialist group, the liberals and the Greens.

The EPP group split, with its MEPs from France, Spain, Italy and Portugal leading opposition to the package.

For her part, fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki, welcomed what she described as "an ambitious reform of the CFP by endorsing the approach put forward by the commission."

She added that the reforms would "put an end to wasteful practices that we can no longer afford."

The vote prompted a mixed reaction from fisheries and environmental lobby groups.

Greenpeace's spokesperson on EU fisheries policy, Saskia Richartz, called it "a momentous shift away from overfishing."

Alex Wilks, director of the online campaigning group Avaaz, described the vote as "a huge victory for the citizens of Europe who urged MEPs to stand up to the fishing lobbies and call a halt to the overfishing madness."

But Guy Vernaeve, secretary general of fishing associations group Europêche, described the proposals as "unrealistic."


Europe ready to tackle Greek debt relief

The Greek government has built and broadened alliances in EU institutions and member-states that acknowledge the need to restructure the debt and deliver another economic model for the eurozone.

News in Brief

  1. Canada and Wallonia end talks without Ceta deal
  2. Juncker hopes for Canada accord in 'next few days'
  3. Romania drops opposition to Ceta
  4. Difficulties remain on Ceta deal, says Walloon leader
  5. Brexit could lead to 'some civil unrest' in Northern Ireland
  6. ECB holds rates and continues quantitive easing programme
  7. Support for Danish People's Party drops, poll
  8. Spain's highest court overturns Catalan ban on bullfighting

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFADraft Bill for a 2nd Scottish Independence Referendum
  2. UNICEFCalls on European Council to Address Plight of Refugee and Migrant Children
  3. ECTAJoin us on 9-10 November in Brussels and Discover the new EU Digital Landscape
  4. Access NowCan you Hear me now? Verizon’s Opportunity to Stand for Global Users
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMeaningful Dialogue Missing Not Only in the Balkans, but Throughout Europe
  6. EASPDJoin the Trip! 20 Years on the Road. Conference & Photo Exhibition on 19-21 October
  7. EuropecheEU Fishing Sector Celebrates Sustainably Sourced Seafood in EU Parliament
  8. World VisionWomen and Girls Urge EU Leadership to Help end Gender-based Violence
  9. Dialogue PlatformIs Jihadism Blind Spot of Western Intellectuals ? Wednesday 26 October
  10. Belgrade Security ForumGet the Latest News and Updates on the Belgrade Security Forum @BelSecForum
  11. Crowdsourcing Week EuropeMaster Crowdsourcing, Crowdfunding and Innovation! Conference 21 November - 10% Discount Code CSWEU16
  12. EJCEU Parliament's Roadmap for Relations with Iran a Massive Missed Opportunity