Fish policy move must be headed off –

Fish policy move must be headed off Fishing Monthly Published:  26 February, 2004

A MOVE to extend the Common Fisheries Policy to cover inland lakes and rivers must be headed off according to Struan Stevenson,President of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee.

The MEP said today that a major conference taking place in Poland next Monday would explore the possibilities of this kind of extension.

Mr Stevenson said he would strongly oppose this at the conference organised by the Polish Senate to highlight the plight of inland and freshwater fisheries throughout the ten accession countries that are about to join the EU.

A report published by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) states that total freshwater fish catches in Eastern European countries fell by over 27% between 1990 and 2000.

Under Article 37 of the Treaty of Rome, the competence of the Council of Ministers is not restricted solely to Community maritime waters and could readily,according to Mr Stevenson, be extended to inland waters. So such a move would be easily available and could be implemented without a change in the Treaties.

But he added:”Clearly the ten accession countries are looking for financial help when they join the EU on May 1 and the Poles have called this conference to see what shape that help might take. They appear to think that the solution may lie with the extension of the CFP to cover all lakes, lochs and rivers throughout the EU.

“I will be urging the acceding nations not to press for this outcome as a remedy to the over-exploitation of their freshwater fisheries. The extension of CFP conservation and management measures to inland fishing activity could cause enormous problems in some Member States. Given the appalling difficulties suffered by the UK whitefish fleet under the CFP, I cannot see the people of Britain welcoming with open arms the news that the Brussels bureaucrats could take over control of our famous lakes, lochs and rivers.

“The next thing we know there will be a fishing effort limitation scheme imposed on Lake Windermere and Loch Ness and quotas applied to the Dee, the Tay and the Tyne. We clearly cannot countenance such an extension of Brussels power.”

The IUCN report states that total freshwater fish catches in Eastern European countries fell from 476,000 tonnes in 1990 to 345,000 tonnes in 2000. Stocks affected include pike, perch, eels, sturgeon, salmon and trout. The report blames this decline on too many fishermen chasing too few fish, and on illegal and unreported fishing of depleted stocks.