MEPs support EU eco-label for fish

Several MEPs in the Fisheries Committee this week expressed their support for an EU eco-label for fish.

As expected, the Fisheries Committe of the European Parliament on Tuesday 24 January elected Gabriel Mato as the new chair of the Committee.

At his first meeting as a chair, the Committee discussed three working documents on the CFP reform: regarding the Common Market Organisation, the External policy and the “overarching communication”.

These working papers set out the main issues the rapporteurs intend to touch upon in their upcoming reports and thus give an indication on how the European Parliament may influence the CFP reform.

Common Market Organisation (CMO) – TFCs and eco-label
Struan Stevenson (ECR) presented his second working document on the Common Market Organisation, in which he presents these policy objectives, among others:
* Transferable Fishing Concessions (TFCs) should be voluntary and member states must have the flexibility to allocate them over only 7/8 years and to recall them.
* Smaller Producer Organisations (POs) should be merged.
* Trans-national POs should be encouraged.
* The discard ban will require coordination with the timetable for achieving MSY. Fishing mortality (FMSY) should be achieved by 2015 and spawning stock biomass (SSB-MSY) by 2020 in line with the MSFD (Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
* A swipe-card system should be used across the EU, in which skippers swipe a card at a quayside machine to identify them and enter intended catch and destination.
* Tying the sector into a trigger price for the entire year would not be sensible & trigger prices should not be set at a level that encourages fish to be unsold.
* The Commission should introduce their own EU eco-label.
* The date of landing should be mandatory on consumer information labels.

Many MEPs, such as Alain Cadec and João Ferreira, expressed their support for an eco-label for fish controlled by the European Commission. Only one MEP, Isabella Lövin, said that the EU should not create its own eco-label, but may have a role in performing audits on existing third-party labels.

It was noted by some MEPs that the issue of TFCs belongs to the basic regulation rather than the CMO regulation..

External dimension
Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA) presented her working document on the non-legislative communication on the external dimension of the CFP. In the document, she writes that dwindling fish stocks and the rarity of “surplus” fish to be sold will lead to an increase in EU nationals operating outside of EU fisheries agreements, threatening the sustainable use of global fish stocks. Lövin proposes that mechanisms must be developed for the EU and Member States to maintain authority and control over all EU operators – vessels, nationals, companies – including:
* collection and publication of data on catches and activities of all EU-flagged vessels
regardless of where and how they operate;
* creation of the list of Non-Cooperating Countries under the IUU Regulation;
* refusal to allow vessels to return to an EU flag once they leave;
* MS must develop ways to exert responsibility over vessels flying other flags that have
an EU national as beneficial owner;
* prohibition of “second registers” of fishing vessels in MS;
* inclusion of fisheries as an “extractive industry” in the Transparency Directive

MEP Carmen Fraga responded that a second register, which would allow fishing vessels operating outside EU waters to pay lower fees, is indeed essential if EU vessels are to be able to compete with vessels from other parts of the world. Fraga also encouraged Lövin to be more liberal when it comes to private operators, as it cannot be assumed that private initiatives would always lead to illegal activities.

Overarching communication
Nikolaos Salavrakos (EFD) presented his working document for the report on the overarching communication. The working document asks a number of questions but also presents a few proposals, for example that the reliability of the scientific data must be one of the highest priorities of the reform.

The working document sparked a discussion among MEPs on the definition of small-scale fishers. The Commission wants vessels below 12 meters to be excluded from the proposed TFC system, but MEPs expressed their concern that this definition does not reflect the actual composition of the fleets in the various member states and many stated that other definitions should be sought.

Votes:
The Committee on Tuesday voted on three reports, all of which were approved by the Committee:
* Fisheries agreement with Guinea Bissau
* EU biodiversity strategy to 2020
* Resource-efficient Europe

The fisheries Committee meeting continues in the afternoon 25/1 and morning 26/1.

> Visit the website of the Fisheries Committee for all the meeting documents

Axel Naver

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