Statement by Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director, Food & Water Europe
Brussels, Belgium – “While a number of the initiatives in today’s announcement are welcome, Food & Water Europe is worried they play too much to current public concerns over discards, treating the symptoms of the problems in our fisheries but leaving the causes to get increasingly worse.
“Of course we need to end discards, and public agitation on this is a good thing, so the intention to require all catch to be landed so quickly by 2015 will be a big step in the right direction. We look forward to working with consumers to ensure that the market works to accommodate this change. We all need to learn to eat different kinds of fish.
“However, discards are a symptom, and current levels of attention on them to appease public concern is diverting attention from the deeper causes of the problems. If the goal genuinely is ‘to make fishing sustainable environmentally, economically and socially’, then proposals to rely on privatized fishing resources through transferable catch shares (ITQs) and promote aquaculture take us in the wrong direction and threaten to make matters worse.
“ITQs are a root cause of the problems facing our fisheries, driving more and more local fishers out of business in favour of unaccountable companies whose motive, and legal responsibility, is to return a profit – sustainability is not part of their equation, whatever they may say. Any fees introduced to buy such quotas, as is proposed, ensure that only the largest, wealthiest players can play, meaning the envisaged cuts in fishing capacity will continue to come from small coastal communities with a fishing tradition, impeding rural development and increasing poverty in remote coastal areas. It is unclear how uneven exemption of ‘small-scale fisheries’ from the quota scheme will work or help. Any system that puts local fishers, processors and others out of business while ‘slipper skippers’ continue to own and profit from fishing rights can’t be right.
“Open water aquaculture is a damaging practice that should be curbed, not encouraged. It is fundamentally unsustainable because the ‘fuel’ that drives fish farms comes either from dwindling wild fish stocks or destructive land-based soy monocultures, including genetically modified crops, heavily depending on chemicals and petroleum. The international soy industry is overjoyed at the upsurge in interest in fish farms, which should set alarm bells ringing for anyone who cares about the communities and environment in the countries producing most of the soy the EU imports.
“We’ve heard too many times that overfishing will be stopped and brought into line with scientifically established total allowable catch, but the enforcement simply does not happen, and those who overfish have good reason to believe nothing will be done to stop them or prevent them doing it again and again.
“A truly radical reform of the CFP would eliminate the current catch shares model and introduce a system that leases fishing rights based on best practice, real enforcement with meaningful sanctions for breaches of the law, and a preference for locally-based operations that plow money back into local communities. Those leaving fishing would see their quotas reallocated to other fishers, not sold for private profit at public expense. Fishing grounds and the fish in them must be managed as a public good.
“The answer to sustainability in European fishing is not to continue to search for ways to somehow increase catch without doing more damage. It is to educate consumers and enforce the law. We need to learn to eat different kinds of fish so as to not overfish particular species, and to end the shameful waste of fish in our over-complex food supply chain. Greed is causing the problems. Ending discards is only part of the answer.“
Food & Water Europe is a program of Food & Water Watch, Inc., a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, D.C., working to ensure clean water and safe food in Europe and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.
Eve Mitchell, Food & Water Europe, emitchell(at)fweurope.org, +44 (0)1381 610 740
Darcey Rakestraw, Food & Water Watch, drakestraw(at)fwwatch.org, +1 202-2683-2467