A proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to make the European fishing quota system more flexible has met a cool reception from EU partners. On Saturday, Sarkozy told a crowd of several hundred in the northern French port of Boulogne that France’s control of the European Union presidency in the second half of this year would be: “an opportunity to put quotas behind us”.
In Brussels, Sarkozy’s fisheries and agriculture minister Michel Barnier modified this slightly on arriving for talks with EU partners:
“Rather than pursuing the somewhat archaic all-night haggling… I’ll give you cod in return for bluefish… I need herring… Give me sole… based on common policy proposals from the Commission, let us work serenely – over two meetings of the fisheries council. Let us try to set these quotas every three years instead of every year.”
Sarkozy said he wanted “a very detailed quota discussion with the Commission as early as the end of this month.
Julie Cator, who is a policy director at the marine preservation NGO Oceana, insists that much more than quotas has to be in play:
“Quotas are only one of the suite of tools necessary for the European fisheries management. We also need to reduce fishing effort, fishing capacity, reduce subsidies to fisheries. Quotas is just one aspect of the many many various aspects of fisheries that needs dealing with.”
Against a backdrop of warnings from scientists that stocks risk collapsing, in December, the EU’s financial watchdog said the bloc had no real idea of how much fish its national fleets caught each year and was failing to clamp down on vessels that exceeded quotas.