They are expected to demand a halt to the overfishing that has devastated stocks, and to limit catches to sustainable levels by 2015.
Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki last month told a meeting of the European Parliament’s cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group that a reduction in employment was inevitable, but that without change to protect fish stocks the loss of jobs would be even greater.
The proposals are likely to include the following key changes:
- Replacement of the annual contest between fisheries ministers over catch quotas with long term management plans based on best scientific evidence.
- Prohibitions on the discard of fish, which in extreme cases can amount to as much as 80% of a catch.
- Encouragement for Member States to permit the transfer or exchange of fishing rights between owners of large vessels. With too many boats chasing too few fish the aim will be to reduce overcapacity, enable best use to be made of individual quotas, and to provide a means by which fishermen can retire from the industry.
- An end to micro-management of fisheries fromBrussels, with day to day decision-making devolved to regional fisheries bodies acrossEurope.
- Fishing agreements with developing nations to be put on a sustainable basis by linking them to requirements for scientific assessments and good governance
Recent academic studies suggest thatEurope’s fish stocks have been reduced to less than 10% of their post-war levels, and Commissioner Damanaki has warned that 91% of what is left will be at risk within a decade.
Chris Davies, the founder of the ‘Fish for the Future’ group, said that Europe’s fish stocks were at risk of total collapse.
He commented: “Out of sight, beneath the surface of our seas, we have done huge damage to a natural resource that was once abundant and left Europe dependent upon imports for nearly 70% of the fish we eat.
“Commissioner Damanaki might have been expected to back down in the face of opposition from those who resist change, but she seems fearless and determined to push ahead with reforms that may be the saving of our seas, of the fishing industry, and of coastal communities
“Our waters are capable of supporting many times more fish than now exist. It is not too late for the situation to be reversed, but we have now reached a crisis point.
“Overfishing must cease or there will be no more fish on the plate.”