Fishermen to get long term quota guarantees under radical CFP shake-up Published: 12 May, 2011
FISHING vessels are to be given long term quota shares guaranteed for periods of up to 15 years under radical proposals to reform the European Union Common Fisheries Policy.
The move, already adopted by countries like Iceland, was hinted at earlier this year, but they now appear to be confirmed in a European Commission draft, a copy of which was obtained by the BBC last night.Environmental groups are already describing it as a virtual privatisation of the fishing grounds and some aspects are almost certain to attract criticism from fishing interests as well.The full details will be published in July, but what is certain is that the practice of discards, much hated by fishermen and much criticised by environmentalists, will be outlawed.In the new scheme, boats would have to land all the fish they caught, and the whole catch would count against quotas.
Other plans, says the BBC, include setting up “multi-annual plans” to restore fish stocks based on the precautionary approach; restoring fisheries to a level that provides maximum sustainable yield (MSY) – the level that will produce as many fish as possible each year without causing the stock to decline – “not later than 2015″ and allowing nations to increase the use of selective fishing gear.But it is the intention to introduce individual transferable quotas – or ITQs – for all vessels over 12 metres in length which is likely to cause the biggest arguments both inside and outside the industry. Some boats under 12 metres which have towed trawl gear will also be included.Skippers would be guaranteed shares of national quotas for periods of at least 15 years, which they could trade among themselves – even, (provided the national government agrees) trading with fleets from other countries. The system is broadly similar to that currently operated by Iceland, although that country is now planning to change that under its own radical fishing reform published earlier this week.But there are fears that powerful fishing countries like Spain could come to dominate quota ownership. However, a survey of countries which have individual transferable quotas showed that fish stocks are in much better shape. It also gives fishermen an incentive to look after stocks.The debate in Europe will almost certainly intensify now that the draft proposals have been made public. Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, has already expressed his concern over regulations which will be imposed across the entire EU without taking account of local needs and practices.”The scientists are telling everybody that maximum sustainable yields for all stocks at all times is an impossibility, and certainly by 2015,” he said.