Common Fisheries policy dead in the water –

Common Fisheries policy dead in the water Published:  26 May, 2009

Bertie Armstrong

THE controversial Common Fish Policy was effectively dead and buried today as European Fisheries Ministers meeting in Brussels vowed to come up with a new system within three years.

They decided to scrap the current scheme and the hated practice of discards where fishermen have to throw back perfectly good fish simply because they have reached the end of their quotas. A new fishing policy will now be in place by 2012.

There was unanimous support for a new Common Fisheries Policy to be radically decentralised – giving more power to member states and to the industry.

Bertie Armstrong, the chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said after the meeting that he was delighted with the result. “We hoped that decentralisation should be the focus – so that’s very good news. The basic decentralisation message is absolutely key here.”

He added: ‘The consensus on the need for change is important too – there appears to be genuinely no holds barred in terms of the scale of reform that could happen here, which is great.” The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations described the meeting as a landmark move.

The focus is likely to centre around a drastic reduction in the size of trawler fleets and in the number of days boats can spend at sea. The European Commission says more than 80 per cent of Europe’s fish stocks are now overfished compared with a global average of 28 per cent. Ironically, the EU is expected to turn to Iceland, which has one of the best fishing conservation record, for advice.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Joe Borg is reported to have requested assistance from Iceland on creating a new policy.