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EP to vote on EU fishing policy reforms
by Staff Writers
Strasbourg, France (UPI) Feb 6, 2013

MEPs approve new EU sustainable fishery regime
Strasbourg, France (AFP) Feb 06, 2013 - The European Parliament approved Wednesday a new fisheries accord hailed by environmental groups as a breakthrough in managing a key food resource which has been over-exploited for years.

MEPs adopted the proposals by 502 votes to 137 and will now take them up with the European Council, which groups the 27 member states.

The measures are meant to restore under-pressure species by ensuring that EU fisheries are run on a 'Maximum Sustainable Yield' basis, a system which leaves a large enough breeding population in place to replenish stocks.

The EU ranks as the world's third largest fishing community behind China and Peru but many species are under severe pressure, with 68 percent of all stocks said to be overfished.

The new fishery regime significantly aims to end the practice of dumping by-catch, those fish which are either unwanted or unsuitable.

The European Commission welcomed the vote, saying it represented real progress -- a view echoed by environmental groups which in the past have been very critical of EU fisheries policy.

EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said she was "especially pleased" with parliament's support "for a policy that is based on exploiting fisheries resources sustainably ... (and) introduces a discard ban."

Damanaki launched the reforms in 2011, aiming to make the EU fishing industry both economically viable and environmentally sound.

Greenpeace called the vote "historic," bringing the prospect of "a fast recovery of Europe's fish stocks one step closer."

"This vote signals a momentous shift away from overfishing," it said in a statement, adding that countries such as Spain and France who oppose the measures "will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies."

The European Parliament was set to vote on major reforms, including a controversial ban on all fish discards at sea, to the European Union's common fisheries policy.

A report written by German Member of European Parliament Ulrike Rodust calls for an end, effective next January, to the practice of throwing back unwanted fish as a way to address chronic overfishing in EU waters.

The report was by approved by the European Parliament's fisheries committee in December,

The measure would oblige member states to manage fish stocks on the principle of maximum sustainable yield starting in 2015. That means that each year the catch couldn't harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce.

The vote represents the first time European parliamentarians have had a say in setting the European Union's common fisheries policy, which has raised questions about lines of authority in managing the resource.

Fishing industry representatives have objected to the "zero discards" and MSY elements of Rodust's report, calling them "radical" and urging they be phased in over time rather than all at once to avoid large-scale economic disruptions to fishermen.

But the lawmaker asserts the measures are needed now to preserve fish stocks.

"My report, which was supported by the majority of the fisheries committee, will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4 a.m., neglecting scientific advice and setting too-high fishing quotas," Rodust told the European Parliament's news service.

The objective, she said, is to restore depleted fish levels by 2020.

"The good thing about ending overfishing is that not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen -- bigger stocks produce higher yields," Rodust added. "We will have to help fishermen get through the transitional period when there will have to be a bit less fishing for some species."

The moves will cause some to be driven out of the industry because there are "simply too many fishermen chasing too few fish" along some European coasts, she conceded, calling on EU members to reduce the number of active fishermen "in a socially responsible way."

The discard ban and MSY provisions are based on proposals forwarded by EU Commissioner Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki, who said the "wasteful practice of discarding perfectly edible fish must be gradually stopped with clear obligations and deadlines."

But the European fishing industry groups Europeche and Copa-Cogeca have objected to implementing the MSY proposal by 2015, contending it is "too rigid and unrealistic," reported.

The groups are calling for gradual and flexible implementation by 2020 at the latest.

Industry leaders also panned a provision calling for the landing of all fish starting this year as "radical" and a source of great concern, the website said.

It will be "difficult to achieve this so quickly because vessels are not equipped with the necessary measuring devices or storage facilities to land all the fish caught," the groups said.


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