Monday, 3 October 2016

Local fishermen should be at heart of EU fisheries policy - a bit late now for the UK?

A simpler, more responsive policy would help restore trust in EU's approach to fisheries

Local fishermen should be at the heart of EU fisheries policy.

In a draft opinion the European Committee of the Regions (CoR), the EU's assembly of local and regional politicians, has welcomed proposals from the European Commission to simplify the Common Fisheries Policy, to close loopholes and to make the policy more responsive to local circumstances. However, members of the commission warned that the proposals still do not do enough to support small fishing businesses.
In an opinion adopted on 27 September, the CoR's Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) backed proposals by the European Commission that would involve the replacement of over 30 rules.

Regaining the trust of local fishermen should be a central concern for the EU's legislators, the commission argued in its opinion, adding that small fishermen should have a greater role in the stewardship of the sea and should be able to operate on a level playing field with larger-scale fishing businesses.

"Small-scale fishing businesses currently feel disconnected from policymaking due to the ineffective governance and overregulation from previous decades" and the more recent introduction of "multiple new regulations," said the rapporteur, Emily Westley (UK/PES), a member of Hastings Council, East Sussex.

Ms Westley continued: "I hope that Europe will not forget the small-scale fisheries that are the backbone of the fragile economies in small coastal towns around Europe, and I would like to appeal to legislators to consider the importance of small-scale coastal fishing as knowledgeable on sustainable fishing methods and as a cultural tradition and way of life which should be protected, together with its important link to the socio-economic life in coastal towns. We need to tap all unused potential support and ecological benefit for small-scale fisheries existing in the Common Fisheries Policy in order for them to survive."

The opinion argues that the EU needs to ensure that future technical measures do not oblige small fishing businesses to invest in new equipment and nets. It also says that the provision of economic, social and administrative incentives could help restore their trust in the EU's policy.

Ms Westley welcomed efforts by the European Commission to develop a more flexible system for the management of fisheries, particularly noting that "the proposal is a step towards regionalisation of the Common Fisheries Policy".

The opinion suggests that "empowering small fishers to manage quotas of certain stocks" would allow small-scale fishing businesses to "identify themselves as shareholders in the managed asset (fish) and have the stimulus to take good care of it". Quotas are determined by the EU's member states.

The rapporteur also said that the EU's fisheries policy should form a central part of a broader 'blue growth' strategy, to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors.

The opinion, on the 'conservation of fishery resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures' , is now due for debate and adoption at the CoR's plenary session on 7-8 December 2016.