Scottish Fisheries Minister not allowed to participate at Vigo meeting – Fishfarmer Magazine

Scottish Fisheries Minister not allowed to participate at Vigo meeting 03 May, 2010 –

EUROPEAN fisheries ministers and stakeholders will be discussing the future shape of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy at two major events in Spain over the next days however Scottish Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead has expressed his anger at not being allowed to participate in the most important meeting.

On 2 and 3 May, in La Coruña, the European Commission and the Spanish Presidency are organising a large stakeholder conference on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.  On 4 and 5 May, an Informal Council of Fisheries Ministers organised by the Spanish Presidency will take place in Vigo. Maria Damanaki, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner will represent the Commission at the Informal Council meeting. At both events, the Commission will present the results of the public consultation on the reform of the common fisheries policy held last year. Participants will review the options emerging from the consultation and shape the basic policy orientations for the future.

However, when Richard Lochhead asked to attend the informal talks in Vigo, Spain, he was refused permission by UK Secretary of State Hilary Benn. Mr Lochhead explains that since that decision, the situation has worsened as it has now been confirmed that the agenda has been expanded to consider some items that had been due to discussed at the formal Agri-Fish Council in Luxembourg on 19 April, which Mr Lochhead was due to attend because the meeting was cancelled due to travel disruption caused by volcanic ash.

Speaking ahead of the Informal Council, Mr Lochhead said: “Last month’s cancelled fishing negotiations in Luxembourg had been scheduled to discuss issues of immense importance to Scotland and now these agenda items have been added to the informal meeting in Vigo that Scotland is barred from attending. This rubs salt into the wound caused by the UK Government’s decision to stop Scotland attending in favour of an unelected Lord whose knowledge of Scots fishing could probably fit onto the back of a postage stamp with lots of room to spare.

“The CFP has failed Scotland’s fishing industry and dependent communities. Our widely respected Conservation Credits scheme has demonstrated how using our limited fisheries powers we, fishermen and environmental groups can manage the seas in an effective and responsible manner. By returning key decision making to Scotland, a more local and regional approach would enable those who are the true experts to deliver real and lasting improvements.

“It’s essential that Europe seizes the best chance in a generation to deliver a fit for purpose fisheries policy. Our fishermen are struggling to cope with low market prices, rising fuel costs and other short term problems as a result of the broken CFP. The Scottish Government is doing its bit, but we need decisive action from Europe now. It’s a great pity that just when the Vigo meeting’s agenda has been expanded, Scotland will be stopped from attending with our rightful place given to an unelected Lord.”

In 2008 the EU launched a radical reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The first step of this process was a Green Paper by the Commission initiating a general discussion on the future of the CFP. During the public consultation, between April and December 2009, over 1700 opinions were received and they have been now summarized in a Report (see link below). 
At this point, a second step of the process consists in reviewing the results and distilling them, with institutions, administrations, stakeholders and experts, into definite suggestions and trends for the future. This is the objective of the conference in La Coruña, which, aside from plenary sessions, will discuss three key pillars of the reform in three simultaneous workshops on governance, access and resource management and the differentiated regime for small-scale and coastal fisheries.

Over 200 people are expected at the conference (70 for each workshop), representing European institutions, national administrations, the fisheries sector, the scientific community, non-governmental organisations as well as the press and media. It will be held in Spanish, French and English.

For the Informal Council of Fisheries Ministers in Vigo, the Spanish Presidency has invited Commissioner Damanaki to present the results of the public consultation, as well as the main conclusions of the stakeholder conference in La Coruña. Ministers will also discuss the external dimension of the future Common Fisheries Policy.

The results of both events will feed in to the future preparations of the reform. Ministers will have another opportunity to discuss the reform at the Fisheries Council meeting on 28-29 June in Luxembourg. The Commission will present its legislative proposals for a new EU fisheries policy next year.