Future of fishing: last chance to save fish stocks

In my capacity as Trustee of the Marine Conservation Society I attended the coalition of the UK’s leading environmental and conservation organisations, including WWF, Greenpeace, RSPB, Marine Conservation Society (MCS), ClientEarth, nef (new economics foundation), and OCEAN2012, response to the UK Government and the publication of the reform proposals. The coalition delivered their joint objectives for the Common Fisheries Policy to key decision-makers at the Zoological Society of London last night. The UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon MP delivered the government’s response. Fisheries campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall who led the FishFight campaign, responded in relation to discards.

  • The current proposal fails to:
  • Put the environment first for people’s sake
  • Provide tools to reduce capacity in line with the available resources
  • Make access to resources conditional on social and environmental criteria

The NGOs asked the UK Government to ensure a Common Fisheries Policy that delivers rather than undermines. On behalf of the NGO coalition, Ian Campbell added: “A reformed Common Fisheries Policy must establish a new way to distribute access to fish. Sustainability criteria should be used to rank access to resources, favouring those who employ methods which have the least impact on marine habitats and non-target species, are most selective, most fuel-efficient, and those who can demonstrate strong legal compliance and operate within and contribute to coastal communities.”

The groups said despite some positive measures, such as the commitment to stock recovery by 2015, there were too many shortcomings that if not addressed by Ministers and MEPs, could undermine any chance of meaningful reform. A reformed CFP must:

  • Put the environment first to make sure that fish stocks, the marine environment and fisheries can thrive
  • Set legally binding sustainable fishing levels that cannot be exceeded by law-makers or fishers
  • Eliminate discards
  • Deliver transparent decision-making and reporting processes to measure performance
  • Properly address the issue of overcapacity in the European fleet

Reacting to the Commission’s announcement, UK Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon MP said that his number one priority was eliminating discards and ensuring that the Marine Act overcame the many silos that are associated with fisheries policy and to deliver a reform of the ‘broken’ Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

Debbie Crockard, Fisheries Policy Officer of the Marine Conservation Society said:

“It is outrageous that we are paying for sound scientific advice to be conducted by world experts, only for it to be disregarded as the baseline for stock management. Scientific advice must be considered the most important driver for sustainable fisheries management.”

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