MEPs divided on transferable fishing concessions

Advocates of transferable quotas asked opposers for clear alternatives but few were given, as the EP Fisheries Committee today discussed transferable fishing concessions (TFCs).

Ulrike Rodust (S&D) launched the debate by saying that reducing overcapacity is what really lies at the heart of the issue. TFCs is what the European Commission has presented as the only way to reduce overcapacity, but “we must ask ourselves if that really is the only solution,” Ulrike Rodust said.

The level of overcapacity varies across the EU, and by proposing the same solution to the whole union the Commission is trying to avoid having to name member states, Ulrike Rodust suggested.

“Some of us have to go home to our constituents and tell them that some of the fishers will need to seek new employment. I would be ready to take on this challenge,” Ulrike Rodust said.

Whether her colleagues in the Fisheries Committee are ready to take on the same challenge did not become clear, as none of them directly touched upon the subject of communicating the message that some fishers will be forced to leave the trade as overcapacity is reduced.

What did become clear, however, is that the Fisheries Committee is divided on TFCs, and that few other concrete alternatives on how to reduce overcapacity are on the table.

Carmen Fraga (EPP), said she is a big advocate of TFCs. “Unless someone dreams up a new model, the only model that has shown that it can drive down overcapacity is ITQs (individual transferable quotas),” she said.

Chris Davies (ALDE) also expressed his support for TFCs and said that “TFCs can be shaped and controlled.” Member states can design the schemes according to their policy goals, he said, for example by providing incentives to low impact fishing, prohibiting leasing or limiting the amount that can be given to any one holder.

“If people don’t like TFCs they have to make very clear what will be the alternative,” Chris Davies said, after which a number of MEPs voiced concerns over TFCs without presenting clear alternatives.

Alain Cadec (EPP) said that he is against TFCs because they will lead to the monetisation of a public resource which would lead to the disappearance of coastal fishing and dynamism of the regions.

João Ferreira (GUE/NGL) also opposed TFCs and drew parallels with milk quotas and greenhouse gas emission trading schemes, none of which he said had achieved the intended targets.

Earlier this week, MEPs Jim Higgins, Pat the Cope Gallagher and Guido Milana also had expressed their opposition to transferable quotas in the Committee.

Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA), hinted that an alternative solution to the problem of overcapacity could be to give priority access to those who fish in socially and environmentally responsible way. She said that TFCs should not be compulsory, and added that those member states that do not want TFCs should be forced to set a lower capacity ceiling than today (see articles 34 and 35 in the basic regulation proposal).

Axel Naver

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