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14th Apr 2024

EU accused of hypocrisy over weak fish deal

  • Around 75 percent of EU fish stocks are over-fished (Photo: EUobserver)

A leading pro-green NGO has said the EU's latest fisheries agreement should be a source of embarrassment at the Rio summit next week.

EU environment commissioner Janez Potocnik, speaking of the upcoming summit on sustainable development, told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday (13 June) the world must find "a new circular structure, where nothing is wasted and growth is driven by reducing pressures on the environment."

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But his message fell flat in the Brussels office of the World Wildlife Fund.

"I don't know how the EU can defend their position in front of the world community at Rio ... On one side they talk of sustainable capacity but on the other they commit illegal fishing practices on a global scale," Roberto Ferrigno, the WWF's expert on EU fishing policy told EUobserver.

Minsters of agriculture earlier the same day - following 18 hours of tense negotiations - agreed to limit over-fishing of main species by 2015 and of bycatch species by 2020.

They also agreed to ban fish discards by 2019 - up to 60 percent of all fish caught by European boats is tossed overboard every year. Fishermen are only held accountable for the quotas they bring ashore, not what they catch in the open sea.

Quotas are already in place but are set independently for each species. In other instances, fishermen are allowed limited days at sea, rather than quotas, and attempt to catch as much as possible.

The European Parliament must give the green light before the decision becomes law, with talks due to start in October.

WWF's comments relate to the fact Europe agreed at a previous development summit in Johannesburg in 2002 to limit main and bycatch fishing in 2015.

The European Commission had also proposed targets for all species by 2015.

"Scandalously, the EU Council has decided to overturn this proposal, postponing any shift to sustainable catches and only 'where possible'," said Swedish Green Party MEP Isabella Lovin.

But the commission said it is a "workable compromise" anyway.

"Our proposal is more ambitious and is still the basis for further discussion for the parliament," EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki noted.

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