EU fishermen's organisations must be strengthened and better equipped to help promote sustainable fishing, reduce unwanted catches and combat illegal fishing, said the Fisheries Committee on Wednesday, in a vote on the first draft regulation in the common fisheries policy reform package.
"This vote marks the first stage of the European Parliament's legislative decisions on a key element of common fisheries policy reform. My report will make clear Parliament's position on regionalisation, transferable fishing concessions and the central role of producer organisations. I am confident that we have put down a clear marker for the future of a sustainable fishery in Europe", said rapporteur on the common market organisation in fishery and aquaculture products, Struan Stevenson (ECR, UK).
Stronger and better equipped producers
To play a more meaningful role in day-to-day fisheries management, producer organisations, which counterbalance the power of retailers, must be properly funded and their role must be strengthened, MEPs say. Setting up transnational producer organisations or associations of these organisations at trans-regional level should be encouraged, to produce binding common binding rules that ensure a level playing field for all stakeholders engaged in fisheries activities, they add.
Furthermore, to improve market opportunities, the Commission should provide financial support and assistance to help producer organisations to create nationwide electronic databases, based on existing vessel monitoring systems and electronic logbooks, the better to coordinate the activities of fishermen and processors for their mutual benefit.
Fighting discards and illegal fishing
The approved text also clarifies the role of producer organisations in any future strategy to reduce discards. Reducing unwanted catches of commercial stocks, e.g. by promoting the use of more selective gear, should be a priority, MEPs say. Fishermens' organisations should also step up checks on their members' activities in order to avoid unwanted catches and fight illegal fishing, they add.
Landed by-catches could be used for bait, fish meal, fish oil and pet food. Fishermen should be reimbursed the expense of these catches so that they land them, but this should not become a new market, MEPs say. Any profit from such products should go to a national or trans-national fund for data collection, control, surveillance and scientific research purposes, they add.
Better information for customers
To improve information to consumers, all fish and aquaculture products will have to specify the fish stock and the area where it was caught or farmed and date-of-landing for fresh fish products. Previously frozen products placed on sale as fresh goods will have to have words "defrosted products" on their labelling.
MEPs also call on the Commission to table a legislative proposal by 1 January 2015 to introduce a new EU eco-labelling system for fisheries products
Market intervention reduced to single storage aid
Today's market intervention mechanism should be reduced, in line with the Commission proposal, to a single storage aid, say MEPs. The committee rejected amendments seeking the continuation of additional support measures such as fish withdrawals.
The new rules, approved in the committee by 24 votes to 1, will be put to a vote by Parliament as a whole at its September plenary session. The final shape of the new common fisheries policy will be co-decided by the Parliament and the Council, and is to enter into force on 1 January 2013.