Fishing reform 'does not go far enough'
Politicians have hailed moves to scale-back EU control of fisheries – but Westcountry industry leaders have warned of a false dawn.
MEPs yesterday backed the biggest reform plan in the history of the EU's ill-starred Commons Fisheries Policy – vowing to restore fish stocks after years of failed conservation measures and to return profitability to fishing communities.
Central to the package is ending the practice of dumping dead fish back in the sea, or so-called fish "discards", within three years, following public outrage.
The vote in Strasbourg also approved moves to wrest control of fishing stocks away from remote officials and give it to regional fishing bodies – trumpeted as the most significant reform since deeply unpopular "quotas" were set by diktat in 1983.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
Some cautioned on the scant detail of how "regionalisation" would work, and Jim Portus, chief executive of the South West Fish Producers Organisation, warned repatriation was unlikely without changes to EU treaties.
He said: "I don't think the Lisbon Treaty will allow for regionalisation to mean anything more than Britain being a parish council for fisheries."
But South West MEP Sir Graham Watson claimed "micro-management from Brussels should stop".
No final deal is done until a last stage – a three-way negotiation involving MEPs, EU fisheries ministers and the European Commission.
But the fact that the European Parliament now has "co-decision" powers over fishing policy means more clout for the measures MEPs and the Commission have put on the table.
UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon, who has spent much of the last week in the Westcountry, said the vote was a "crucial step forward" but "there is still more work to be done".
"Discards" result from a ban on bringing to shore certain species of fish netted accidentally, or which push vessels over quota, and prompted public disdain after being highlighted by celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Sir Graham, who backed the deal, said it would allow the "day-to-day supervision of coastal and ocean fisheries by those who understand local conditions".
"This deal is good news for fish, fishermen and for consumers," he added.
South West Tory MEP Julie Girling, a member of the Fisheries Committee in the European Parliament, said: "The whole report was emphatically adopted, meaning no discards, restoration of stocks to sustainable levels, more environmental measures and more regional decision-making. Both fishermen and the environment will benefit."
But Mr Portus said the "well of opinion" was that the CFP should be scrapped altogether, a prospect David Cameron has "offered a tantalising glimpse of" by promising an in-out referendum if reform fails.