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Procedure : 2004/2199(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0019/2006

Texts tabled :

A6-0019/2006

Debates :

PV 14/03/2006 - 22
CRE 14/03/2006 - 22

Votes :

PV 15/03/2006 - 4.11
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2006)0091

Debates
Tuesday, 14 March 2006 - Strasbourg OJ edition

22. More environmentally friendly fishing methods (debate)
PV
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  President. The next item is the report by Seán Ó Neachtain, on behalf of the Committee on Fisheries, on more environmentally friendly fishing methods (2004/2199(INI)) (A6-0019/2006).

 
  
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  Seán Ó Neachtain (UEN), rapporteur. – Mr President, I will start my presentation on promoting more environmentally friendly fishing methods by reminding Parliament that in recent times fishermen collectively have been seriously under attack.

Because of illegal actions by the few, there is a growing public perception that collectively fishermen are all potential criminals. I say to colleagues and especially to you, Commissioner, that this has to stop. Are there dishonest people in the fisheries sector? Of course there are, just like in every other sector – economic or otherwise – known to man. If someone is guilty of criminal activity then let the full force of the appropriate law apply. On the other hand, we must put a stop to the insidious branding of the entire fisheries profession with the same brush of dishonesty. We must never forget that the great majority of men and women involved in the sector are honest, dedicated and extremely hard-working people.

Furthermore, no meaningful change can be achieved without the active involvement and participation of those honest fishermen and women. In recent years the key challenge to maintaining sustainable fisheries has, to a large extent, developed into an overly simplistic and polarising debate on whether or not we should have more or less fishing. In reality the challenge of rebuilding stocks and maintaining sustainability is also about developing new and better ways of fishing through the utilisation and development of new technology.

The objective of maintaining sustainability must, most centrally, embrace the question of how we fish in the future so that we harvest our marine resources in the most environmentally favourable way. The introduction of fishing practices that reduce adverse impacts on our ecosystems is a priority. To achieve that we must first understand the effects of fishing practices on the marine environment and promote fishing activities that are environmentally sustainable. I am particularly pleased that the last Irish Presidency proposed the initiative of a major EU programme to make fishing activity more environmentally friendly in order to help to build European fish stocks.

This is an urgent matter. The urgency is clearly illustrated by one extraordinary statistic: 20 million tonnes of fish are being discarded worldwide every year, equivalent to about one quarter of total world catches. In the words of the then Irish Presidency, over-fishing is part of the overall problem; but taking that amount of fish out of the seas and then throwing it overboard is shockingly wasteful and has to be substantially reduced in the short term. I am sure that you will agree with me that we are going nowhere unless that happens, and that we must do something positive about it.

It is gratifying that we in the European Union are prepared to take the lead to tackle that worldwide problem and deal with such a wasteful side-effect of the fishing industry. The proposed environmental programme includes a review of all existing technical conservation measures within the next two years, to reduce ecosystem and environmental damage. It includes the proposal to fast-track the development of more selective fishing gear. It proposes the simplification of our current rules with a view to facilitating those changes.

I started my presentation in defence of fishermen. I conclude my presentation by underlining that it is our fishermen and women who will have a central role in deciding the future of the European fishing industry. Fishermen and women will have their say in this process through their regional advisory councils, which will have an extremely important role to play. There is no doubt in my mind that fishermen will fully subscribe to this new environmentally friendly approach. They will do so because it will contribute to sustainable fisheries. They will do so because it will contribute to improving fish stocks. They will do so because it will ensure that fish stocks are properly preserved for future generations.

Commissioner, if you want this programme to work then you must ensure that there are proposals for financial and other incentives, including additional quota entitlements to encourage fishermen to move towards more selective and more environmentally friendly fishing gear.

I hope that you will agree with me, Commissioner, that in the current context that will be a small price to pay.

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I wish to begin by thanking the rapporteur, Mr Ó Neachtain, and the Committee on Fisheries for the constructive report on more environmentally friendly fishing methods and for the interest they have shown in the communication from the Commission. I cannot agree more with what the rapporteur has just said regarding the honesty and integrity of fishermen; the abuses of the few should not be blamed on everyone at large and we need to clamp down strongly on the real culprits.

The Commission attaches great importance to the development of more environmentally friendly fishing methods. Improving selectivity is one of the objectives of the technical measures that we propose in that context. In that regard, I am pleased to note that some progress has been achieved on the technical measures in the Baltic that were adopted by the Council in December, and the Commission intends to increase selectivity and the new technical measures to be proposed for the Mediterranean Sea, the Atlantic and North Sea.

I have noted your interest in combating ghost fishing. The Commission is prepared to be at the forefront of this battle. Following the Deepnet report, measures were decided, in the last TAC and in the quota regulation for 2006, to ban temporarily deepwater gillnet fishery in the areas covered by the report and concerned by this activity until such time as permanent measures – also applicable to other areas, in lieu of a complete ban – are adopted, hopefully, during this year. I have also reserved funds to support retrieval surveys of ghost nets. The Commission will continue to follow these issues with particular attention.

The reduction of discards will be a major objective of the new technical measures for the Atlantic and the North Sea. It needs to be underscored that, due to the variety of the catch composition and the level of discards in European Union waters, the regional aspects of the different fisheries will be taken into account. The various areas to be considered will correspond to the spheres of influence of the different RACs, thereby incorporating more easily the proposals made by those councils, a positive evaluation being made by the relevant RAC.

The Commission is encouraging the industry to engage in pilot programmes by making use of the RACs for this purpose. Two such pilot projects have already been carried out in France and Sweden. Further pilot projects, in full cooperation with the industry, will allow us to test on a case-by-case basis possible measures to reduce discards effectively.

The Commission is also encouraging the development of efforts in fisheries management in the Kattegat in cooperation with Denmark, Sweden and Germany. This will hopefully lead to positive results later this year. This kind of management, among other objectives, is aimed at reducing or eliminating discards.

Bycatch reduction is linked to selectivity and discard issues and, at international level, the Commission has promoted a global approach for bycatch issues within the FAO. This could result in an international plan of action on bycatch reduction and/or technical guidelines elaborated by the FAO.

Most of the measures to promote environmentally friendly fishing methods will be included in the new technical measures for the Atlantic and the North Sea. As you know, technical measures are considered as a complement to effort limitations, TACs and quotas, long-term management and recovery plans, and as part of the overall package of management measures.

I have noted your request to simplify the regulatory system and can inform you that these new technical measures will be a fundamental test case in the simplification programme led by the Commission. They are one of the principal points of the action plan on simplification.

Turning to the amendments: with regard to Amendment 1 on centralisation and co-management, the Commission would like to see substantial RAC involvement in the elaboration of technical measures without, however, any change to the decision-making process. The Commission agrees with taking into account initiatives of RACs so as to improve fisheries management and can accept that point on condition that the positive effects of such measures are confirmed by scientific assessment. I would like to emphasise that we already have examples to illustrate that the Commission takes into account proposals from the RACs, such as the case of the French square-meshed panel, the Swedish grid and the proposed new rule under which – for safety reasons – the cod line is to be placed as far as ten metres, instead of one metre, away from the meshes of the cod end when using an onboard pump system in pelagic fisheries.

It is premature to give a definitive reaction to Amendment 2, since discussions on depleted fish stocks are still under way. They will hopefully be concluded by April. However, the draft proposal from the Commission already provides for socio-economic compensation linked to recovery plans, and I can assure you that this topic will be given the necessary attention.

 
  
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  Struan Stevenson, on behalf of the PPE-DE Group. – Mr President, let me first of all warmly congratulate the rapporteur, Mr Ó Neachtain, for a brilliant own-initiative report on introducing environmentally friendly fishing methods to the EU fisheries sector.

He has produced a very fitting conclusion to an initiative that, as he reminded us, was first started by the Irish Presidency. I agree with him and I agree with the Commissioner on the need to decriminalise honest fishermen. That is a crucial point that he brought out in his presentation. However, his report stresses two other points that I want to expand upon.

First of all, there is the need for the Commission to take a more wide-ranging view of measures to protect the marine environment and rebuild depleted fish stocks, in particular by studying factors other than over-fishing that may cause fish stocks to be depleted, such as pollution and global warming. As you know, Commissioner, there is mounting evidence that over-fishing has not been the only cause of the collapse of cod stocks in the North Sea. If that was so, the dramatic reduction in the number of fishing vessels that are now fishing for cod in the North Sea – numbers have collapsed by 60% through decommissioning in the last five years – would have led to a remarkable recovery in cod stocks, but that has not been the case.

It seems to me that the other factors – such as global warming or pollution or whatever other factors may be evident – should now be the basis of your review of the cod recovery programme, which I am delighted that you have agreed to carry out.

Indeed, the other point from Mr Ó Neachtain’s report that I want to emphasise is the point he strongly made on discards, when he emphasised that over 20 million tons of fish are discarded worldwide every year. One million tons are discarded in Europe every year. Commissioner, you said that two pilot projects were already under way. I thought you were also carrying out pilot projects in the North Sea. If you have any further information on the pilot projects and evidence concerning discards and how this may be tackled in the future I would very much like to hear it in your winding-up speech.

 
  
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  Dorette Corbey, on behalf of the PSE Group. (NL) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should first of all like to congratulate Mr Ó Neachtain on his excellent report. Our group is satisfied with the report and we also support the two amendments tabled. The report is very timely. Last month, it became public knowledge that a number of deep-sea fish are threatened with exhaustion and even extinction. There are no two ways about it: the fish stocks are in a desperate fix and a change of tack towards sustainable and environmentally-friendly fisheries is desperately needed, and affects us all.

Let me begin by saying that fishermen will need to adjust to the depletion of fish stocks. While there is a need for technical measures, such as acoustic deterring devices, electric impulses which will render the disturbance of the sea bed unnecessary, adequate mesh sizes and fish hooks in order to minimise bycatch, non-technical measures are at least equally important. I am mainly concerned about preventing illegal fishing and introducing marine reserves so as to replenish fish populations.

This sounds simple, but it is an unfortunate fact that it is not. Our group stresses the need for fishermen to be encouraged to apply sustainable methods. The fisheries sector is having a tough time, not least due to increasing oil prices. In this light, we need an active and involved government in order to promote sustainable fishing. The governments must also stand surety for control and enforcement. Illegal fishing renders the situation impossible for all parties. Without effective control measures, this situation will irrevocably lead to a tragedy of common sense. Everyone stands to lose and soon there will be no fish left to catch.

Thirdly, consumers must also be involved in sustainable fishing. Many consumers wish to buy well-caught fish, but they do not know which of the fish is sustainable. Certification and quality marks are therefore important. Sustainable fish is, first and foremost, fish that is not overfished, without unnecessary bycatch and discards, and good information to consumers is needed in this respect. Only then will consumers take an informed decision in favour of sustainably caught fish.

Finally, in order to make a change of tack possible, we as politicians must shoulder our responsibility. We must constantly draw the attention to sustainable fishing and we must act; we must respond to the fishermen who make the temporary introduction of marine reserves possible, thus ensuring that they do not lose their incomes in the short term. The report that is before us constitutes a few sound steps in that direction and these must be fleshed out in the near future. Needless to say, the fishing industry must be involved in the measures. Only with responsible politicians and active government, innovative fishermen and involved consumers can both the fishing industry and the fish look forward to a sustainable future.

 
  
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  Elspeth Attwooll, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – Mr President, the ALDE Group congratulates Mr Ó Neachtain on his report. It is clear and succinct and yet comprehensive in its coverage of the issues. We particularly endorse the references to biodiversity and to the need for action in relation both to ghost fishing and discards, as well as the call for the Commission to continue to promote the adoption of an FAO International Plan of Action on bycatch reduction.

On ghost fishing, we stressed the importance of monitoring the existing transitional measure, to ensure that it is not simply leading to displacement of effort, and the importance of the full involvement of the European Parliament in discussions relating to long-term controls. We entirely agree with the report’s emphasis on the role that regional advisory councils can play in the promotion of environmentally friendly fishing methods and with the necessity of affording them increased technical and financial support.

We regret that we cannot vote for either of the amendments. Whilst we sympathise with the approach expressed in Amendment 1, particularly on decentralisation and co-management, we have difficulties with some of the wording and feel that the points are effectively addressed in paragraph 19. In the same way we believe that the issue of compensation, as raised in Amendment 2, is already adequately covered by the existing paragraph 6.

In conclusion, we commend the report to the Commission, the Council and Parliament as a whole.

 
  
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  Ian Hudghton, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. Mr President, I wish to thank our rapporteur, Mr Ó Neachtain, and assure him of my full support for his report, which I hope will be adopted unamended.

I know of no one with any interest whatsoever in fisheries who would not support the principle of environmentally friendly fishing methods: the people with most to gain, after all, from protecting the marine environment and ensuring a balance between conservation and harvesting of fish stocks are the fishermen themselves. Most of the fishermen I know are not just fishing for today but are hoping that, one day, their families will be able to follow them into the business.

However, there is much more to environmental protection than just technical measures, important as they will always be. The CFP itself, I would contend, is not environmentally friendly: TACs and quotas measure not the amount of fish caught but only the fish landed. Discards are caused by the CFP, rather than prevented by it.

Many people in Scotland’s fisheries-dependent communities are totally disillusioned with the European Union’s management of fisheries; so much so that, today, the Scottish Parliament’s European Committee considered a petition based on 250 000 signatures calling for withdrawal from the CFP. The Scottish Parliament agreed to ask for legal advice on this. That was not done lightly, but because there is a real and serious need for more radical reform than we have had thus far.

 
  
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  Pedro Guerreiro, on behalf of the GUE/NGL Group. – (PT) I should first like to commend the rapporteur on his openness and his focus in the course of drawing up his report, which we broadly endorse and which was adopted unanimously in the Committee on Fisheries.

There is no doubt that the sustainability of fisheries resources is crucial to the long-term survival and viability of the fisheries sector.

The sustainability of resources needs to be based on a wide-ranging approach to measures to protect the marine environment and to rebuild depleted stocks, in which other factors such as coastal and offshore pollution, industrial and agricultural effluents, deep-sea dredging and maritime transport are also taken on board. This sustainability should also be based on technical measures arising from scientific fishing research, in particular via the implementation of closed seasons, prohibited zones and mesh size regulations.

That being said, we feel that fisheries management policies should not be used to penalise this strategically valuable activity, which is of vital economic and social importance. It is therefore necessary to strike a balance between meeting social and economic needs and environmental sustainability, in particular by implementing appropriate social and economic measures to compensate fishermen for the costs of reducing their activities connected with plans to rebuild depleted stocks, especially those working in less well-developed areas. Given that the common fisheries policy is a common policy, we believe that those taking decisions in this field need to take responsibility for those decisions. Consequently, we have retabled an amendment calling on the Commission to propose social and economic compensation measures aimed at providing Community funding for plans to rebuild depleted fish stocks.

Similarly, as we believe that fishermen and their representative associations should be involved in determining measures to protect the marine environment and rebuild fish stocks, we have retabled an amendment stating that decentralisation and co-management are two principles that are fundamental both in guaranteeing the involvement of fishermen and their representative associations in measures to protect the marine environment and rebuild fish stocks, but also in guaranteeing the effectiveness of such measures, bearing in mind that it is the fishermen and their associations, who have first-hand knowledge of the state of resources and who are most concerned to ensure their preservation, who will be applying such measures.

 
  
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  Kathy Sinnott, on behalf of the IND/DEM Group. – Mr President, there is no doubt that the common fisheries policy and the traditional quota system have resulted in depleted fish stocks. The more recent day-at-sea approach does not guarantee environmentally friendly fishing and bizarrely rewards the use of smaller mesh. I am hopeful that policies developed under the newer system, where you have all-stakeholder consultation, will be better than the top-down policies.

I support closed boxes such as the recent Celtic Sea cod box, which, though difficult, has been supported by fishermen. I believe that we must increase mesh size to prevent unnecessary discarding of juvenile fish. Ninety millimetres should be the minimum mesh size in order to protect nursery areas and reduce discards.

More R&D is needed to tailor selectivity devices such as square mesh panels and sorting grids to make them even more effective in protecting young fish. This year gill netting has been banned in waters deeper than 200 metres. However, further measures are required, including restrictions on the length of gear and measures to prevent the stripping and dumping of nets at sea. Mesh sizes for fixed gears must be harmonised.

I am confident that the measures outlined above, and others, can contribute significantly to sustainable fishing and ultimately lead to sustainable fisheries.

 
  
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  Duarte Freitas (PPE-DE).(PT) I should first like to thank the rapporteur and congratulate him on his work. I also wish to say that I wholeheartedly welcome the Commission's initiative in issuing a communication on promoting more environmentally-friendly fishing methods.

The technical conservation measures have a more important role than ever in the future of the sector. It is crucial that we adopt methods to improve selectivity and, therefore, the possibility of catching fish at the right size, taking account of biology and the life cycle of each individual species.

The satisfactory reproduction of fish, and in turn increased stocks, will only be possible if there are appropriate management measures, such as the temporary closure of certain fishing areas, to reduce bycatch to sustainable levels, and the effective practice of monitoring of vessels and fishing areas by means of satellite technology.

It is also necessary to become aware of the specific characteristics of fishing practices in the various Member States. This knowledge will help to implement appropriate, well-balanced measures that will ensure the recovery and management of fish sources and safeguard the overriding interests of fishermen and vessel owners. It is accordingly necessary to adopt a decentralised approach taking account of the specific characteristics of fishing areas and different species.

In spite of the Commission’s good intentions, a more decentralised approach is sometimes needed on important and sensitive questions regarding the economic and environmental sustainability of fisheries. Examples of this include the proposal initially put forward by the Commission for rebuilding fish stocks of southern hake and lobster and the most recent proposal on recovery of European eel.

I should like to finish by saying that the development of scientific research and technology sharing at Community level are key factors if we are to adopt more environmentally-friendly fishing rules. In this context, I feel that we need to pay close attention to the channelling of funds that will be available as part of the new Community framework for supporting research.

 
  
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  Paulo Casaca (PSE).(PT) Mr President, Commissioner, ladies and gentlemen, I should like to add my warm congratulations to Mr Ó Neachtain. This report concerns a Commission communication which lies at the heart of the common fisheries policy. I feel that in this and other areas, and using other instruments, we need to find solutions to the problems that we are facing, and that, accordingly, this debate today is of vital importance.

In the autonomous region of the Azores, considerable progress has been made in recent years, not least the prohibition of bottom gillnets and bottom trawls. I do feel, however, that much remains to be done, in the autonomous region of the Azores and in all Community waters, as regards these more environmentally-friendly methods.

What is needed is, firstly, more first-hand fisheries management, with the fundamental concept of the marine habitat placed at the heart of fisheries policy implementation. Secondly, we must prioritise the problem of discards, as the rapporteur has done.

We know that there are other countries within and outside Europe that operate a ban on any discard and I see no reason why we should not act more quickly and follow suit in the EU.

There is also the crucial problem of satellite systems for monitoring and detecting vessels, on which there is much to do if they are to comply fully. Lastly, I should therefore like to ask the Commission to take on board the need to implement these systems at the earliest opportunity and to ensure their effective use.

 
  
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  Iles Braghetto (PPE-DE). – (IT) Mr President, Mr Borg, ladies and gentlemen, promoting environmentally friendly fishing methods demonstrates that the European Union has become fully aware of the difficulties being experienced by this sector and the need for structural action for responsible exploitation of aquatic resources.

Reducing fishing pressure, because fish stocks are in a bad condition, optimising catches by avoiding huge quantities of fish being thrown into the sea because they are immature and reducing the impact on particularly sensitive habitats: these are the main objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy, which we can endorse.

Adopting measures designed to protect and conserve living aquatic resources, to ensure that they are used in a sustainable way, to identify compensation measures for lost income and to support the development of research and innovation are priority commitments set out in the report under consideration. This report has our firm support; in fact, if fisheries activities are made more environmentally friendly this will also contribute to promoting positive socio-economic conditions.

I am convinced that it will only be possible to correctly apply the technical rules governing fishing if fishermen are willing to comply. It is therefore necessary to reinforce cooperation, agreement and participation by all those involved in the assessment, implementation and drafting of all technical measures to be adopted, and to promote a decentralised approach; in this way, once again, the European Union will decide not for its citizens but together with them.

 
  
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  Zdzisław Kazimierz Chmielewski (PPE-DE). – (PL) Mr President, I should like to thank the rapporteur for the thought that has gone into the report and for its presentation.

The search for environmentally friendly methods of fishing is as long as the history of fishing itself. Even in ancient times legal and technical measures were put in place in order to limit catches and avoid depleting the stocks and damaging the biomass and consequently the environment. Only in the particular circumstances of the early 19th century were all restrictions on fishing lifted. At the end of the century things returned to normal, in other words, protective restrictions were reintroduced. It seems that more complex protective measures based on scientific research were developed mid-way through the 20th century. These favoured so-called optimal fishing that involved regulating the age of the first catch. There followed provisions on the permitted size of fish caught and the principles of selective fishing gear. On the other hand, they simply restricted the limits, fishing effort and fishing potential.

As to specific issues in the document before us, I believe it is worth mentioning the new approach to protective principles. In contrast to the protective measures applied to date, which mainly related to selective fishing, it is now proposed to protect the hitherto unwanted elements of the catch. I think this is eminently rational and indeed noble. It would seem to be a case of political correctness as applied to fish. Will this really be beneficial to the environment, though? Experience has shown that selective fishing always weakens the biological strength of desirable species in the ecosystem. The less useful species can take over the niche vacated by the more desirable ones. It is therefore vital to recommend ongoing monitoring of the population of both groups and the relationship between them.

 
  
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  Ioannis Gklavakis (PPE-DE). (EL) Mr President, I should like to congratulate the rapporteur and to add that, despite the actions taken by the European Union, fish stocks are under constant threat and that this is due to three very important factors: firstly intensive rates of fishing, secondly fishing methods and thirdly maritime pollution.

The Committee on Fisheries adopted a report in January, the purpose of which is to promote environmentally-friendly fishing methods by proposing various technical measures, such as the definition of fishing areas, fishing periods and fishing tools.

We all wish for and are seeking sustainable exploitation of the seas and that is why we all need to move in this direction. As part of this effort, I too should like to emphasise certain things:

Firstly, the measures applied must be based on adequate, substantiated scientific studies, taking account of the peculiarities of each area.

Secondly, fishing organisations must have a right of participation, opinion and codecision in the overall procedure. In this way fishermen, realising the importance of and the need for the measures, will contribute to their more effective application.

Thirdly, more environmentally-friendly fishing methods imply less and more selective fishing, new equipment and loss of income. It is therefore important to make provision for adequate resources to support efforts.

Fourthly, it is very important that stricter measures be taken to protect seas from contamination either from land or sea and

Fifthly, seas know no borders. The European Union must find ways of ensuring that measures to protect the seas are applied not only by the Member States, but also by third countries.

To close, I wish to emphasise that it is the sacred duty of the entire world to leave clean seas with fish in them to future generations.

 
  
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  James Nicholson (PPE-DE). – Mr President, I shall be the last tonight to add my congratulations to the rapporteur on his very good report. However, one line jumped out at me, and that is that TACs cannot control fishing mortality because they control landings but not catches and discards. This has been central to the problem of the common fisheries policy for decades and nothing that has been put in place by way of improvement has worked to date.

The cod recovery plan has not achieved the objective. Fishermen in my region of Northern Ireland have faced closure in the Irish Sea for a long number of years and we have not seen any concrete evidence that this has been a success. We need to look at where we are going.

Let us put the past behind us and start with a clean sheet of paper. It is in every fisherman’s interest that future stocks are protected and, if we must have controls, then let the industry be part of the decision-making process. You cannot continue to shut them out and blame them for non-cooperation. We have that opportunity through the regional consultation process. Let us bring everyone on board and let the industry be listened to and, above all, take on board some of its very good ideas.

It is a nonsense that if a fisherman says something, it must be wrong. This cannot be the bottom line for us in the future.

 
  
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  Joe Borg, Member of the Commission. Mr President, I could not agree more that ultimately we need to take a broad view on the reasons for depleted stocks. However, I will also stress that our communication deals with fisheries and how to come to grips with depleted stocks because, unless we reverse the trend as regards over-capacity and fishing effort, we will not deal with the problem effectively.

Regarding the point made concerning pilot projects on discards, there are indeed proposed projects in the North Sea aiming at increasing selectivity by new technical measures. I need to underline however that calling for a complete ban on discards from Community waters is easier said than done. This point was also raised by Mr Stevenson and by Mr Casaca. Even with regard to Norway, where fisheries are much less mixed and less complex, it has not been without problems. We are however looking at various ways of reducing discards, as I indicated in my initial presentation.

On another point made by Mr Stevenson concerning the studying of factors other than over-fishing, such as pollution and global warming – a point also raised by other honourable Members of Parliament – we are certainly willing to do this and we are doing so. The problem exists independently of the problem of depleted stocks, and we need to address it if we want to regain sustainable fisheries in the long-term interests of the fishermen themselves. In fact this is what we are trying to do by virtue of the proposed new technical measures and the communication we are preparing on maximum sustainable yields.

With regard to the point raised by Mrs Corbey, we are looking at the question of certification and labelling regarding sustainable fisheries by means of the eco-labelling proposal, which we hope to present during the course of this year.

I would also like to pick up the point that was made by Mr Hudghton, that environmentally friendly fishing methods are in the interests of the fishermen first and foremost. However, I would not agree with his point regarding the abandonment of the common fisheries policy, which I consider to be a cornerstone and the very basis of sustainable fisheries in the European Union.

With regard to the point raised by Mr Guerreiro, let me reiterate that the issue of compensation for socio-economic measures is being dealt with in the context of discussions on the European Fisheries Fund, which I hope will be adopted at the April Council.

In response to Mr Freitas’s point regarding the Vessel Monitoring System, I would like to state that the Commission considers that satellite technologies offer a powerful means of detecting the presence of unauthorised fishing vessels in closed areas and many protected areas and strongly supports the use of remote control technologies for control of the major part of the European Union fleet. The Commission supports VMS purchase and installation costs, and in fact the maximum amount paid during recent years has been in the region of EUR 2 250 for each blue box. In parallel, the Commission encourages the use of vessel protection systems which allows identification of the presence of vessels with VMS systems through a satellite image.

I agree with the point made by Mr Braghetto, Mr Gklavakis and Mr Nicholson on involving the fisheries sector – the various stakeholders and the industry – in the management of fisheries and in the various measures needed to attain and maintain sustainable fisheries. I also agree on the need to base our advice on scientific assessments.

I would also like to thank Mrs Attwooll, Mrs Sinnott, Mr Chmielewski and Mr Casaca for their views and for their very valid comments and remarks.

 
  
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  President. The debate is closed.

The vote will be tomorrow at 11.30 a.m.

 
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