Member states try to block discard ban

A group of member states are attempting to thwart the EU plans to ban discards. Next week, they will try to pass a declaration that would allow discards to continue.

One of the cornerstones in the European Commission’s proposal on CFP reform is the ban on discards – i.e. the practice of throwing caught fish back into the sea. But even before the European Parliament and Council have voted on the issue, member states are moving to block the proposed change.

At the Council meeting next week, a group of member states said to be led by France will attempt to pass a ‘joint declaration’ which might effectively stop the discard ban.

The declaration signatories “consider that a discard ban as proposed in the draft basic regulation of the future CFP is unrealistic and too prescriptive” and “support instead the inclusion in the basic regulation of the ambitious objective of a significant reduction of discards”.

The Guardian wrote on Thursday that France, Spain, Portugal and Belgium had signed up, while Italy, Cyprus and Ireland were wavering. Since then, Italy and the UK have now declared that they will not sign the declaration, a source told CFP Reform Watch on Friday.

Even if the declaration does not gain a majority in Council, it may create a ‘blocking minority’ of member states and it will cause future debates in Council to start from a different footing.

“With this declaration, member states are trying to take out the founding bricks of the building, one by one, causing the CFP reform to collapse,” a Brussels insider said.

The main fisheries item on the agenda of next week’s Council meeting was supposed to be the adoption of Council conclusions on the external fisheries policy, but the declaration on discards may shift the focus of attention of the meeting.

The draft version seen by CFP Reform Watch reads as follows.

Joint Declaration on discards
in the context of the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy

1. reiterate their commitment to the sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources and to the preservation of a European fisheries sector in all its diversity,
2. note the variety of fishing practices and management methods within the European Union which must be preserved and properly taken into account,
3. re-state their commitment to an ambitious reform of the common fisheries policy, based on the principle of sustainable development and aiming at the maximum sustainable yield in the framework of ecosystem-based fisheries management,
4. reiterate their view that the wasteful practice of discarding fish, that is tolerated and in some cases even promoted by the current structure of the management system, constitutes a considerable obstacle on the road to a sustainable fisheries policy,
5. consider that a discard ban as proposed in the draft basic regulation of the future CFP is unrealistic and too prescriptive, and that a pragmatic approach is needed especially in the context of mixed fisheries, particularly in the Mediterranean,
6. support instead the inclusion in the basic regulation of the ambitious objective of a significant reduction of discards,
7. consider that this objective should be pursued on a fisheries-based approach, in the framework of the multiannual plans, on the basis of a thorough impact assessment examining for each fishery the causes of discards and assessing the environmental, economic and social impact of the measures foreseen to reduce unwanted catches.

Update 19 March: The declaration was not tabled at the Council meeting.

Axel Naver

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