Tuesday, 15 November 2011

The Commissioner speaks

Maria Damanaki European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries presented her views on that famed reform at a European Policy Centre Event in Brussels that was held under the catchy title: “Fishy business -Time to reform EU fisheries policy?”. Funny, no?


There is a reasonably accurate assessment of the present situation except for one thing: there is no mention of the fact that the CFP, which is responsible for the dire state of affairs outlined in the speech, is a political construct and decisions are taken by ALL the EU members under QMV, whether they have any interest in the subject or not.

Please pay attention to the plan to regionalize the industry; the aim is undoubtedly to destroy any idea of national fishing industries, even if the national authorities and fishing organizations are required to give their support for the plans that will, somehow, bring about sustainability and many other good things, not detailed in the speech. But they will, eventually, be very good things and the discards will be stopped.
Via regionalization industry, stakeholder and Member States can set all the necessary measures to avoid catching unwanted fish in the first place. With my proposal what is hauled up in the nets has to be landed. If it is undersized fish then it goes into fishmeal production. If it is oversize fish then the fishermen can sell it for human consumption and they will keep the profits from this sale.

With the ban over time we put less pressure on the stocks and the fish will become bigger and fetch better market prices bringing more profits to fishermen.

This will also help us to achieve social sustainability.

Maybe some among you are now thinking: “What are we going to do in the meantime until we reach this social sustainability?”

Let me outline to you how I want to finance the transition. With the two instruments of the Market Organisation and the new Maritime and Fisheries Funds I will support innovation, sustainability and smart growth in coastal areas.

Fishermen should receive storage aid to implement the discard ban. They should also get financial support for participating in trials on more selective gears and for collecting data. I will financially support training and professional qualifications.

I will fund diversification so that small scale fishermen have a second leg to stand on. I will financially support social dialogue meetings for small scale fishermen, so that they can network and exchange best practises. I will also fund marketing initiatives.

I will also fund associations of fishermen to give them a stronger role vis a vis wholesalers and to help them get better prices for their fish. And let me tell you that for all these measures the small scale fishermen will receive a higher co funding. Finally I want to give aquaculture a financial boost for growth in both inland waters and in coastal areas.

This is what I want to do to help fishermen through the transition to social sustainability.
There is no mention of the looming real CFP, that is equal access becoming the rule. Will they simply forget about it? The Spanish, for one, will remind them.

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