EU wide drift net ban under fire Published: 27 May, 2014
A PROPOSED European-wide blanket ban on drift net fishing ha been described as crazy, misguided and possibly even malicious by a leading fishing organisation.
A twin attack has come from leading environmental fishing campaigner Charles Clover and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, and they are almost certain to gather more support in the coming weeks.Clover, founder of the Fish2Fork restaurant website and writing in his regular Sunday Times column this week said small artisan herring fisheries around the UK coast such as at Clovelly in North Devon are threatened by this blanket ban, yet the boats based there catch little more than ten tons a year. The ban was brought in because of the devastating affect drift nets have had on the Mediterranean.He described the policy as “ridiculous, unleashed upon Europe’s most ecologically fishermen” by the outgoing EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki. “what was she thinking?” he asked. He said things look very different in the Mediterranean where drift nets kill endangered dolphins and seals.Meanwhile, the NFFO has said the blanket ban, proposed by the Commission, if adopted, would close all of the UK small scale drift-net fisheries for herring, mackerel, sole, bass, salmon, sardine and mullet, some of which are certificated by the Marine Stewardship Council. “None of these fisheries has a significant unwanted bycatch problem,” it adds.The NFFO said: “We are at a loss therefore, to understand why the Commission is now reaching for additional legislation to address a specific problem in the Mediterranean, before it has exhausted the legal means available to it through infraction proceedings; especially when it is quite clear that this course will extinguish legitimate and sustainable small-scale fisheries in a number of member states. The maximum financial penalties are not minor up to £256,000 per year for each area of non-compliance.”The statement concluded: “Although the Commission says that it launched a web based consultation on the proposed ban, very few people seem to have heard about it. Certainly the advisory councils have not had an opportunity to express an opinion. This in itself is a failure of good governance, in a matter of profound significance for a large number of small-scale fisheries.”It is important therefore that all those potentially affected by this blanket approach push back against it. Already, a broad alliance of fishermen, fishermens organisation, conservationists and scientists are signalling that the Commission has taken a wrong turning. We can expect some powerful member states to resist this debased version of the precautionary approach.”Some fishing gears in some circumstances do pose an unacceptable threat to wildlife and it is vital that bycatch problems in those fisheries are resolved. But to revert to a discredited blanket ban approach, with all the incidental collateral damage that will cause suggests that there is something far wrong in the Commissions thinking as it limps to the end of this Commissioners period of tenure.”
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