Parliament supports more sustainable overseas fishing practices

The European Parliament Thursday 22 November adopted new rules to govern the EU’s long distance fleet. The parliament also adopted a total ban on shark finning, a new management plan for the Baltic Salmon, and a resolution on small-scale fisheries.

A more sustainable external dimension
The parliament adopted a resolution on the external (international) dimension of the Common Fisheries Policy, which said the EU should respect developing countries’ need for their own fish rather than subsidising EU vessels to catch fish in foreign waters. The resolution called for measures against ‘flag hopping’, whereby ship owners shift the flags of their vessels. The EU should only fish on surplus stocks and EU vessel owners should pay more for their fishing licenses, the resolution stated.

“The EU should be taking the lead in the global push for sustainable fishing, rather than falling behind,” the rapporteur, Isabella Lövin (Greens/EFA, Sweden) said after the vote.

Although the resolution had been adopted in the Fisheries Committee with 24 votes against 1, the chair of the committee, Gabriel Mato Adrover (EPP, Spain), tabled several changes to the report before the plenary vote. He said during the debate that the EU should ensure the viability of the distant water fishing fleet, and that the EU fleet would lose fishing opportunities if the Lövin report went through unamended.

Kriton Arsenis, (S&D, Greece) said during the debate that he was disappointed with this procedure. “I urge Mr Mato Adrover to rethink, because the president cannot go against the 24 versus 1 majority of the fisheries committee,” Kriton Arsenis said.

In the end, all the changes proposed by Gabriel Mato Adrover were defeated in the plenary vote and the report on the external dimension was adopted with 450 votes against 11.

Parliament closes loopholes in shark finning ban
MEPs removed exceptions to the EU ban on “shark finning”, i.e. cutting off fins and dumping carcasses at sea. With the new law, EU vessels will need to land sharks with fins naturally attached to the body. Rapporteur Maria do Céu Patrão Neves (EPP, Portugal) sought to retain exceptions which allowed fins to be removed, but her proposals were rejected and the shark finning ban was adopted with 566 votes against 47.

Baltic Salmon
A new management plan to protect the Baltic Salmon was adopted. The rapporteur Marek Józef Gróbarczyk (ECR, Poland) said during the debate:

“One of the key aspects in the report is regulating recreational fishing. This has not been regulated so far, but impacts the status of the resource. They have not been subject to control which means that unreported fishing of Baltic Salmon has grown. Member states have not met their obligations to report all catches of salmon.”

Small-Scale Fisheries
The parliament also adopted a resolution by João Ferreira (GUE/NGL, Portugal) on the protection of small-scale coastal fishing.

“The current CFP has been disastrous in particular for small-scale fisheries and in-shore fisheries. We need to take an overall approach which favours artisanal fisheries,” João Ferreira said during the debate.

Chris Davies (ALDRE, UK) said it is not the fault of Brussels that the small-scale fishers are disadvantaged: “The EU shares out fishing opportunities to Member States. It is Member States that decide whether big vessels or small vessels get the quota. Maybe some of the critics should spend less time criticising Brussels and more time criticising their own national capitals.”

Technical measures vote postponed
The Parliament was also scheduled to vote on the Gallagher report on ‘technical measures’, but decided on Thursday to postpone this vote in order to put pressure on Council in the deadlock in multiannual management plans. Read more about the conflict here: Deadlock on long-term fisheries plans: MEPs send strong message to Council.

More information
> Watch the debate on all these fisheries files here.
> Find the voting results on VoteWatch.eu
> Links to all the reports

Axel Naver

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