Ending discards and ensuring responsible fisheries agreements with third countries are two important elements of a sustainable fisheries policy, writes Mette Gjerskov, Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries.
The EU has in its hands the chance to forge a new model of green and economically viable growth. This also counts for fisheries. The Common Fisheries Policy, CFP, is a perfect testing ground for the green growth vision of the Danish EU Presidency. Fisheries is a sector where economy is very much dependent on the environment, and the environmental aspects will be of utmost importance in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.
The reform proposal that was launched by Commissioner Damanaki in July 2011, focuses on ensuring the sustainable management of fisheries resources and the protection of ecosystems. It is not solely about ensuring jobs and catches this year and next year. It is also about future earnings, it is about healthy maritime ecosystems and it is about high quality fish products for future consumers.
To ensure sustainable fisheries we must address the discard problems. The Danish Presidency will strive to get rid of unwanted catches and try to bring discards to an end. We must remember that discarding is throwing fish back into the sea. Dead fish. It goes without saying that this is a terrible waste of food and a waste of resources which jeopardizes important stocks.
Denmark and Sweden are prepared – together with Norway – to pioneer on a ban on discards. In November 2011, Denmark, Sweden and Norway signed a declaration banning discards in the Skagerrak by 1 January 2013. I hope that the Danish-Swedish example will serve as inspiration for other EU Member States. As chair of the Council I will, however, be open towards other ways of attaining our goal.
Agreements with third countries
Another important aspect of ensuring responsible and sustainable fisheries is the so called external dimension – ‘the foreign policy’ of the CFP. This is also part of the Commission’s proposal, and the Danish Presidency will work for Fisheries Partnership Agreements being based on the same standards as those applicable to the EU’s own waters. We must make sure that the EU fishermen only fish available surplus stocks, and the agreements must also benefit the countries we make agreements with.
The EU has a responsibility when it comes to the poor countries of the world, and strategic decisions in fisheries must not be made without considering the potential side effects for poor countries. Healthy maritime ecosystems and jobs in the fisheries sector are matters of concern both inside and outside the EU.
Goals for Council meetings during the Danish Presidency
The Common Fisheries Policy reform will be debated at the Council meeting in March, April, May and June, and it is my intention to adopt Council conclusions on the external dimension as early as at the Council in March.
As to the entire Common Fisheries Policy reform it is my hope that the Council will reach a general approach on a sustainable CFP in June. This will allow the Council to start negotiating with our important counterpart, the European Parliament, in the second half of 2012.
Regarding the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund the Presidency has scheduled an orientation debate at the Council meeting in March aiming at a partial general approach also in June.
Danish Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries, chair of the AGRIFISH Council