Sustainable fishing by 2015, that’s the aim this week of the EU Commission as it attempts to shake up the bloc’s much criticised Common Fisheries Policy.
The ambitious plan includes a ban on discarding fish and an end to the annual quota fight between individual member countries. But will it catch on? In Boulogne-sur-Mer, in the north of France, fishermen say the current system has serious flaws.
‘‘We already don’t have enough space on board to store unauthorised catch. And then there are the discards, or what they deem discards. Because unfortunately we have to cast aside fish because we don’t have the quota. As a result we’re forced to throw fish overboard that are the legal size,’‘ said fisherman Jean-Michel Fournier.
The EU hopes the new plan will protect Europe’s dwindling fishing stocks, by reducing catches to allow fish stock recovery. One flagship proposal is for a system of so called ‘transferable fishing concessions’ for vessels. The Commission says that will reduce Europe’s fishing fleet by allowing operators to sell their quotas to others. But, Pierre-Georges Dachicourt, the President of France’s National Fishing Committee (Comité national des pêches) says it will kill small scale fishermen off.
‘‘It’s going to put capital in the hands of the few. All the capital, all the money, all the fish. There will be a few hundred people who will be in control. That will mean an end to small scale fishing that you have seen here. It will finish the community who live their lives here and look after their region and coast,’‘ he said.
But, Brussels has warned three-quarters of EU fish stocks are currently exploited at unsustainable levels. It argues that without a major sea change the whole of Europe’s fishing fleet is under threat.