The European Commission is to publish plans to rescue the bloc’s over-exploited fish stocks. The aim is to reach sustainability by 2015. Euronews’ Audrey Tilve spoke to EU Commissioner Maria Damanaki.
Euronews: ‘‘Mrs Damanaki, you’re the European Commissioner for Fisheries and this reform is your project. Let’s start with these transferable quotas you want to put in place. Fishermen in some countries and some NGOs say that this will mean privatising public resources, and they are clearly against. What do you say to them?
Maria Damanaki: “Privatisation of the resources is absolutely out of our minds. I would like to say the opposite. Our idea is exactly that we have to go for a preservation of resources, and we are going to permit to the owners of the vessels to use this resource for a certain period of time. “
Euronews: ‘‘Fishermen also say that this will lead to more industrialised fishing because they say small boats will sell their shares to big ones, and this would be the end of small-scale fishing.’‘
Maria Damanaki: “Let me say straight forward that the governments can exclude completely the small scale fisheries from this system. We are also going to protect coastal areas because we will have a special funding instrument for small scale fisheries. What we are going to do is to try to reduce over-capacity of the big vessels, of the trawlers, the big trawlers, because we have some reasons to do so. If we do nothing, then only eight of our 136 stocks will be healthy after a decade. So they are not going to fish.”
Euronews: ‘‘Throwing fish overboard will be banned. What will people do with these accidental catches that they are not allowed to sell? What do you want them to do with them?
Maria Damanaki: “Well, here we have a problem to solve. I have to admit that and we are working on it and that’s why our proposal is not to go for banning discards from tomorrow. We need a transitional period. Let me put it forward in a straight way: if you say to a fisherman, you have to catch an amount of fish up to this, then he throws away the rest. So what we are going to do is to say to them: look, you have to bring everything back to land and we, together, will solve the problem (of) what we are doing with this fish. There are some good fish you can sell, and by good I mean more profitable. And there are fish which are also good but less profitable. Let’s see what we can do with this. We can freeze it, we can process it, we can give to poor people but not throw it back into the sea.”