Fisheries ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (22 April) will review negotiations with MEPs over reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The biggest area of dispute is when the European Union should introduce a ban on discards of unwanted catches.
Member states want the ban to apply in 2017, two years later than the date set by the Parliament and European Commission. Under the Council’s position, 7% of discards would still be allowed and counted as ‘accidental’ by-catches. Discarding, in which unwanted fish are dumped overboard after being caught, risks reducing fish populations to unsustainable levels, say campaigners. The practice has increased because of the CFP quota system. The Commission estimates that 23% of catches are now discarded, but campaigners say the figure is as high as 40%.
Last week a group of 217 civil society organisations wrote to fisheries ministers asking them to agree to the 2015 date called for by the Parliament and Commission, and to match the Parliament’s target date for recovering fish stocks to sustainable levels. “Without such an ambitious yet achievable objective for the recovery of fish stocks, the CFP is a policy without purpose,” said the letter. Signatories included Ocean2012, Greenpeace and Birdlife. “We deeply deplore that council rejected such a goal in its general approach.”
The Council is split geographically on the issue. northern European states want an early end-date with few loopholes. But southern states have resisted, and inserted a provision to allow up to 7% of catches to be discarded after 2017. Sweden refused to endorse the final text because of this, but the agreement was adopted by qualified majority.
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