The expected attempt to block the discard ban through a declaration in Council never happened. Instead, ministers today held a long discussion on different approaches on how to reduce discards. Videos from the meeting below.
Last week, it was revealed that a group of member states led by France had written a joint declaration with the aim to stop the discard ban. But when the meeting of fisheries ministers started today, France had backed down and the document was not tabled.
Over the weekend, the Fish Fight campaign activated more than 100,000 people on Twitter to ask fisheries ministers to keep the discard ban.
While there was no declaration tabled, discards was nevertheless at the centre of discussion during the Council meeting.
Tackling discards on fishery basis
A general consensus seemed to be that if there is to be a discard ban, it should to be introduced on a fishery by fishery basis, as opposed to species basis. Member states called for a gradual and regional approach that is adapted to the specific context of each fishery. Many member states said that the special conditions of mixed fisheries have to be taken into account, particularly in the Mediterranean. Several ministers called for more studies on the reasons for discarding, region by region, before prescribing any measures against discards.
The French minister, Bruno Le Maire, said that discards should be tackled in the long term management plans and not in the basic regulation. Commissioner Maria Damanaki responded that the existence of a long term management plan cannot be a precondition for a discards ban, since so many management plans are stalled between the Council and European Parliament.
The Council adopted Council conclusions on the external dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy.
“The Council today stated that when it comes to fishing, it does not matter whether the EU fishermen fish in EU waters or external waters – the same rules are provided,” said the Danish fisheries minister Mette Gjerskov at a press conference after the meeting.
The Council conclusions stress that in bilateral fisheries agreements, the EU must exclusively fish at surplus resources and prevent the overfishing of stocks. The council conclusions also say that agreements should be allowed to be suspended in cases of violation of human rights in the third country.
The Council adopted a tougher enforcement of the ban on shark finning, supporting the landing of all sharks with their fins attached. The regulation will now be handled by the European Parliament.
Market organisation and fisheries fund
Ministers also held a public debate on the Common Market Organisation and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).
In the discussion on the market organisation, ministers touched upon the issues of producer organisations (POs), information to consumers and a storage mechanism for unwanted bycatch.
In the discussion on the EMFF, many landlocked countries called for more support for inland aquaculture.
> Video from the Ministers’ discussion on discards
> Video from the Ministers’ discussion on the Market Organisation (CMO) and European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF)
> Watch the press conference
> Video with short interviews with some of the ministers before the meeting