The EU’s fisheries ministers have sat down to harpoon the agreement that has regulated the industry for the past quarter-century.
It fulfills a promise made by current EU president Nicolas Sarkozy before he took over France’s six- month term running the Union. It sent a shockwave through the industry with its warnings of near-exhausted species. Now it is time for action says Brussels.
“We still have a situation of significant overfishing : in fact 80% of European fish stocks are still overfished,” says Joe Borg, European Fisheries Commissioner.
The French say it is time to put on ice the argument about overcapacity and focus on existing quotas; not to abolish them but modify them properly, and save ships, not scrap them. This is in contradiction with the European Commission’s preferred shrinkage of the fishing fleet.
“We can’t reform any policy without the industry, or by opposing it, so we have to do it with them, by taking the time to listen to them as well as the environmentalists and scientists,” says France’s Agriculture minister Michel Barnier.
However independent observers say quotas are not the problem; it is member states breaking their own capture rules and letting their fishermen catch as much as they can.