Statement from Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter
Brussels – “Food & Water Europe welcomes the stated intention of politicians discussing revisions to EU fisheries policy to end the shameful practice of discards, but in many ways this was the easy part. Now they need to get on with the job and tackle the heart of the problems in European fishing.
“Discards are an obvious place to start, but they are a symptom of far bigger problems underlying fisheries policy. Fixing what’s wrong with EU fisheries means any reform of the Common Fisheries Policy must tackle much more difficult issues like privatising public resources through Individual Transferable Quotas (IFQ’s) and ensuring that limits on overall catch are based on reliable science instead of politics. Furthermore, without considerably improved enforcement, a notional end to discards, or any other revisions, would be little more than hot air.
“There is ample evidence in the U.S. and the EU showing privatised fishing quotas concentrates control into fewer, bigger hands, often the ‘slipper skippers’ who do not actually fish, while driving smaller, often community-based boats out of the water. This must be replaced with policies aimed at managing fish stocks as a public good to ensure fishing communities and the long-term jobs they support are healthy and strong rather than a resource for creating individual profit.
“The farcical routine of EU Member States negotiating their ‘share’ of the catch, far above scientific advice, must be stopped. As authors of the recent University of York study clearly say, ‘Competitive bargaining doesn’t work.’ We need to improve both the science behind stock assessments and respect for those assessments, but politicians cannot continue to talk sustainability and ignore it in negotiations if they expect to have any meaningful fishing industry in Europe in the medium to long term. Iconic species like cod and Bluefin tuna exemplify where this approach leads, and it’s a fair guess others will follow without fundamental change.
“Policies are of little use if limits are not enforced. Sanctions must be harsher for both fishers and Member States flouting agreements.
“These changes will be difficult and will require politicians to take on entrenched ways of thinking to work with vested interests in new ways, but it must be done. Ending discards is a good start, but without significant change in these other areas it will achieve little.”
Contact: Eve Mitchell – emitchell(at)fweurope.org, tel + 44 (0)1381 610 740)