MEPs back conflicting measures to limit the global impact of the EU fishing fleet –

MEPs back conflicting measures to limit the global impact of the EU fishing fleet Published:  19 September, 2012

The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has voted today on proposed changes to the EU’s fishing practices in international and foreign waters. The committee recognised the need to reduce the impact of EU fishing vessels abroad, but at the same time backed some protectionist measures that favour Europe’s long-distance fleet.

Greenpeace welcomes the committee’s support for an end to overfishing in the waters of other countries and for measures to tackle excessive fleet capacity. The committee also called for the inclusion of human rights clauses in agreements between the EU and third countries. However, the committee also backed contradictory amendments tabled by Spanish Members of the European Parliament defending the interests of the fishing industry to continue expanding into new fishing grounds.

Greenpeace claims the Fisheries Committee is dominated by representatives from Mediterranean countries and many members are known for their close association with the fishing industry.   Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “The committee’s support for an end to overfishing in foreign waters is a good signal for fisheries reform, but the question is whether this will translate into real action to reduce the size and impact of the EU fleet. It will not be possible to halt overfishing and at the same time expand into new fishing grounds. The fleet is already capable of catching a lot more fish than is sustainable.”

Greenpeace says decades of overfishing have devastated European fishing grounds, so a significant part of the fish consumed in the European Union now come from waters outside the EU. Some of Europe’s most destructive industrial fishing vessels travel to the other side of the planet in search of dwindling fish stocks.

The EU catches about 1.2 million tonnes of fish per year in foreign and international waters [1] – about one quarter of its total catch. Around 400,000 tonnes of this external catch is caught in the waters of some of the world’s poorest nations, threatening the livelihoods of local fishermen and their wider communities. Access to these waters costs the European taxpayer almost €160 million per year: around 17% of the EU’s fisheries budget.

Last week, following intense public pressure, the Australian government blocked the world’s second-largest super trawler, owned by a Dutch company, from fishing in Australian waters [2]. In April, Senegal expelled European trawlers from its waters, resulting in an almost immediate increase in catches for local fishermen (Senegal’s Catch of a Lifetime: