Battle to reform fisheries policy tough and hard, MEP warning

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THE BATTLE to reform Europe’s common fisheries policy and end the practice of discarding unwanted fish will be tough and hard, an MEP deeply involved in the campaign has warned.

TV Chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has highlighted again in his Channel 4 ‘Fish Fight’ programme the damage that current policies are causing to the world’s seas.

He has welcomed proposals recently announced by the European Commission for major reforms to put fishing on a sustainable basis and allow fish stocks to recover.

But South East England MEP Catherine Bearder, a vice president of the ‘Fish for the Future’ group in the European Parliament, feared that some fishermen may prove to be the strongest opponents of change.

The MEP said that all MEPs have already been told that French fishing interests are building a pan-European network to lobby against the proposals, and that representatives of Scottish fishermen claim that ending the discard of fish is not ‘realistic’.

Short term thinking without regard to the long term consequences for fish stocks in our oceans is destroying fish stocks across the planet, she warned.

Catherine Bearder said: “We have at last a European Commissioner who understands that if there are no fish there can be no fishermen, and who is determined to make changes.”

“Fishermen need to understand that a fishing industry that regards it as acceptable to kill fish and then discard them is neither moral nor sustainable. We have to do things differently.”

Major commercial interests were behind much of the lobbying against change, she claimed, with 80 per cent of fishermen using small boats responsible for catching only 10 per cent of the fish.

She added: “A small minority of companies own the big vessels that cause the real damage. They are the ones who will lose financially in the short term by a change in policy.

“Last summer I literally took this fight to Brussels when my delegation of our local fishing industry met with the European Commissioner for fisheries to discuss reform.

“These reforms are good for our local fishermen and good for the long term sustainability of fish stocks.”