Plenty more fish in the sea? MEPs to decide on best way to tackle overfishing
MEPs will this week decide how to reform the EU's common fisheries policy in order to put an end to overfishing while at the same time tackle unemployment in many coastal areas due to the decline of fisheries. Ahead of a debate on 5 February and vote the day after, we asked German Social Democrat Ulrike Rodust why she is calling for radical change in her recommendation to fellow MEPs.
How do you propose to protect stocks and put an end to overfishing?
My report, which was supported by the majority of the fisheries committee, will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4am, neglecting scientific advice and setting too high fishing quotas. As of 2015 the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. One problem we have to tackle is the lack of scientific data: we will have to set up additional research and data collection programmes.
How would you address unemployment and related social problems among fishermen in coastal areas?
Ulrike Rodust The good thing about ending overfishing is that not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields. We will have to help fishermen get through the transitional period when there will have to be a bit less fishing for some species. What's more, my group tabled an amendment which obliges member states to give fishing rights preferably to traditional small-scale fishermen. This part of the fishing sector produces more jobs and uses less detrimental fishing techniques most of the times.
Unfortunately, at some European coasts, there are simply too many fishermen chasing too few fish. Member states will have to reduce the number of active fishermen, but they should do this in a socially responsible way.
You propose member states close 10%-20% of their territorial waters to fishing within three years. Do you expect this to be endorsed by the Parliament and the Council?
The fisheries committee has already endorsed a general obligation for member states to create these fish stock recovery areas but without prescribing a certain percentage. My group will reintroduce a clearer obligation for the plenary vote. For the moment the Council does not agree, but our fisheries ministers will have to learn that there is co-decision and that the EP is a serious negotiation partner.
There have been negotiations to reform the EU's common fisheries policy for more than 20 years. Will this reform finally resolve the sector's long-standing problems?
Ending overfishing and discards is indeed a historical change of the EU's fisheries policy. Today the sector suffers a lot, not only because of the results of continued overfishing, but also because of cheap imports. By the way, many fishermen of the new generation support our plans. And we need the active support of fishermen. Fishing happens far out at sea, so you cannot simply rely on controls only. That's why in the future fishermen will have a much greater say through the so-called advisory councils.