Several campaigns to end overfishing compete for MEPs’ attention this week – but all are not prone to listen.
On Tuesday 6 November, WWF presented 150,000 signaturesto the European Parliament from citizens across Europe demanding healthy oceans and sustainable fishing practices.
Ulrike Rodust, the Parliament’s rapporteur for the Common Fisheries Policy, who accepted the petition signatures on behalf of Parliament, said: “150,000 demanding more sustainable fisheries and healthy oceans is a huge sign that people want their representatives in the European Parliament to fight for an ambitious fisheries reform.”
Consumers, retailers and fish fighters
WWF is not the only organisation campaigning to convince Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to end overfishing and ban discards.
This week, the FishFight campaign is asking people to dive deep down in the more than 800,000 names of supporters for a discard ban.
Recently, a coalition of associations from the processing, trading, consumer co-operative and retail sectors sent MEPs a reform statement calling for an end to overfishing (MSY by 2015) and other measures such as granting EU fisheries subsidies only if recipients comply with the rules.
Those who prefer the status quo
With important business sectors and hundreds of thousands of citizens calling for more fish in the sea, it may seem like a no brainer to adopt rules that cut fishing quotas in the short term so that fish stocks can grow and allow larger catches in the future. But there is a strong political opposition to such rules by MEPs who prefer maintaining the status quo rather than cutting quotas in the short term.
Those MEPs may be more prone to listen to fishing industry organisations such as Europêche, who have sent MEPs letters saying that they do not want to cut quotas and that they want a discard ban only for stocks in danger.
Consequently, many MEPs, particularly from the conservative EPP group, have tabled amendments that add various loopholes to the demand to end overfishing. Their arguments are much the same as those put forward by EU governments earlier this year: fish stocks should not be rebuilt because parts of the fishing industry do not like to make short-term sacrifices for long-term gains.
MEPs campaigning MEPs
Ulrike Rodust thus has a tough job trying to persuade enough of her colleagues to vote for a reform that ends overfishing. She is leading negotiations among MEPs to agree on compromise amendments that can win a majority in the Fisheries Committee vote on 18 December. All MEPs are due to vote on the reform in plenary early 2013; there, it would take at least 378 votes to get a majority if all MEPs are present for the vote.
Rodust is not alone. A cross-party group of MEPs called Fish For the Future is campaigning in the Parliament for a reform that puts an end to overfishing. Fish For the Future this week released an infographic (below) explaining their view on how to fix the problems with EU fisheries.