Euro MPs back large-scale fishing reform to save stocks

Scallop fishing off northern France - file pic More data is needed about species to make Europe's fishing more sustainable

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The European Parliament has voted for sweeping reforms of the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy.

The package includes measures to protect endangered stocks and end discards - the practice of throwing unwanted dead fish into the sea.

Wasteful discards are reckoned to account for a quarter of total catches under the current quota system.

There are hopes that the changes can become law by next year, after more talks with the 27 EU governments.

The MEPs voted for the package by 502 votes to 137.

The Greens in parliament called the vote "historic". Spokeswoman Isabella Lovin said it would "finally put the EU's fisheries policy on a sustainable footing".

A fishing alliance, Europeche, says the reforms are too sudden and too radical.

With an estimated 75% of Europe’s stocks overfished, there has been enormous public and media pressure over this latest attempt to shake up the CFP.

Pie chart - EU catches in 2010

The BBC's environment analyst Roger Harrabin says the vote is something of a victory for citizen power, following organised lobbying of MEPs by ordinary people, as well as by high-profile celebrity chefs and environmentalists.

The reform package was presented to the full parliament in Strasbourg by the German Social Democrat MEP Ulrike Rodust.

She said the reforms “will bring an end to the December ritual of fisheries ministers negotiating until 4am, neglecting scientific advice and setting too high fishing quotas.

“As of 2015, the principle of maximum sustainable yield shall apply, which means that each year we do not harvest more fish than a stock can reproduce. Our objective is that depleted fish stocks recover by 2020. Not only nature will benefit, but also fishermen: bigger stocks produce higher yields.”

She said fishermen had to be helped through a transitional period as fishing capacity shrank to allow stocks to recover.

Parliamentary clout

MEPs are sharing power with the Council - the EU governments - on fisheries policy for the first time. There is still some dispute about the amount of influence MEPs can exert over fishing quotas.


This historic vote is something of a victory for citizen power over a policy that has brought the EU into disrepute.

MEPs were bombarded with complaints, following high-profile campaigns from celebrity chefs and environmentalists.

The scale of the vote is significant.

The parliament will now speak with a unified voice in the endgame of negotiations with fisheries ministers and the Commission - which already urges sustainable fishing.

Ministers from nations with large fleets. like France and Spain, may attempt to weaken the resolutions, but they will find themselves swimming against a powerful tide.

MEPs have made some tough choices. For instance, they had an option to vote for maximum sustainable yield - that is taking as much fish as the sea can reproduce annually. They demanded instead that fisheries should be allowed to grow, rather than to stay at their current depleted level.

This argument is not over yet. There will be debate over how far to help small boats; how to cushion fishermen while stocks are recovering; and how much fisheries shall be allowed to recuperate (one UK fishery was reduced by 94% over 118 years of commercial fishing).

But today's votes will surely lead in the direction of the change the public have been demanding.

Follow Roger on Twitter @rharrabin

Under the new proposals, the EU will shift from the current bargaining over quotas - a system often attacked by environmental groups - to fishing based on "maximum sustainable yield" (MSY).

The phasing in of MSY depends on collecting more scientific data about the rate at which different marine species reproduce.

The environmental group Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs' vote on Wednesday, saying the reforms would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods.

Greenpeace says small-scale fishing vessels measuring 12m (40ft) or less make up about 80% of the European fishing sector and usually cause less environmental harm.

The group's spokesperson on EU fisheries policy, Saskia Richartz, called it "a momentous shift away from overfishing".

"National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen," she said.

Atlantic bluefin tuna is the most overfished species in European waters.

But the environmental group WWF says EU fisheries have also faced a 32% decline in stocks of cod, plaice and sole since 1993.

The fish catch in the North Sea has slumped from 3.5m tonnes in 1995 to 1.5m tonnes in 2007, WWF reports.

The UK Conservatives' fisheries spokesman, Struan Stevenson MEP, said "these reforms will be wresting control away from the micro-managers in Brussels who have made such an absolute mess of fisheries policy for the past 30 years".

"We will also see an urgent timetable set for an absolute ban on the scandal of dumping and discards."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 368.

    This reform is one of the reasons scotland should be independent, they have no voice as part of the uk in europe.

  • rate this

    Comment number 367.

    The Ministry of Chocolate Teapots will be working with the
    Department of Too Little Too Late

    So it's business as usual

    It's too late now anyway
    It's gotten so bad even the Mackerel have quit British Waters over the last couple of years

    Yet another EU disaster

    wtg guys

  • rate this

    Comment number 366.

    Presumably, this is the same organisation that introduced the wasteful quotas in the first place, now they will be looking for plaudits. They must think we were born yesterday! Idiots.

  • rate this

    Comment number 365.

    Some trolls on here, methinks !
    The Common Fishing Policy has been a complete disaster, but that never seems to stop the Brussels bureaucrats doing anything stupid !
    But fishermen themselves can be stupid too. Just look at what happened to the cod on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Bovine stupidity of overfishing then nothing, all the fish gone !

  • rate this

    Comment number 364.

    Simple unlike the other EU instutions (Commission, Council of Ministers etc) the Parliament is a democratic body directly elected by and accountable to the voters.
    If more of the power (as in this case) was transfered from the Commission and Council things would improve. In almost every case where power has been given to the Parliament (not perfect) regulation in that area has improved

  • rate this

    Comment number 363.

    People keep saying about throwing away unwanted fish, the fish is wanted , its the crazy EU laws that say it has to be thrown away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    " 343. The truth
    There are plenty of fish in the sea. All this talk of overfishing is just scaremongering by lefties!!!..."

    Either you are a troll looking for a bite or extremely ignorant

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    If we went back to the old system of each nation controlling it's own waters, this problem would not have happened. Spanish and Portuguese fleets have destroyed our stocks. Britain has always played by the rules and enforced restrictions stringently, a shame most other nations in EU do not do similar.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    358 one whale could feed hundreds. It's just a case of creating demand!!! We need to create jobs and fishing and whaling could sustain hundreds of thousands of workers!!!!

    I have eaten whale meat and can vouch for the fact it is delicious and highly nourishing!, there is no need to be squeamish!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    ...Here is a good example of why an assembly such as the European Parliament can be useful to people !"

    It was European fishing policy that caused the problem!

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    At one time the UK fishing industry employed over 100,000 people now it is a fraction of that. At one time it was not uncommon to land 50lb+ fish now 10 to 25lbs is the norm. I agree we should fish to the maximum sustainable level. As for whaling, demand is decreasing. Japan has 75% whalemeat catch unsold last year. While Iceland made $20 million from whale watching tourism, more than hunting them

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    As a Navigating Officer in the North Sea - I hope this means that the 'Skipper' of these fishing vessels can now relax and not leave the Bridge/Wheelhouse in the middle of the Sea to sift through the fish and actually navigate safely. Fishing vessels are the most dangerous vessels on the seas with no one manning the wheel. Reducing red tape on fishing quotas will surely go towards stopping this.

  • Comment number 356.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Millions are starving and the UK has the perfect opportunity to feed them AND earn precious currency, employing tens of thousands in our fishing ports!!!

    Who could possibly object??? No one!!!!

  • Comment number 354.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    We must fish more not less!!!

    The UK must exploit all natural resources at it's disposal if economic growth is ever to return after 13 years of labour vandalism!!!!

    All species, no matter where they are should be fished by the UK's fleet, and that includes the highly lucrative whales!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 352.

    This is a breakthrough move by the EU. Our government let us down by not establishing enough marine reserves for fish to breed and stocks recover - no surprise there. If the EU would now ban the use of bottom dredging trawls and floating long lines other marine life will have a chance. Still not sure what was offensive about my other two posts - was it mentioning over-population?

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    349. The truth
    There are indeed lots of cod left in the sea. Just not in Newfoundland because their fishermens attitudes reflected yours and with their heads buried in the sand they fished out every last fish. They do have work now in tourism (Viking heritage and the history of the Cod Industry) As a young man 50 years ago I worked on a trawler out of Teignmouth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    346 Not totally true. Cod left but were replaced by a more lucrative fishery ,shellfish. Local industry there does rather well from this fishery. No doubt the cod were overfished but it may also be the case that the resource decided to shift further north. Our own cod resource does not like the warmer water and is inclined to inch northward also. Incomers like hake seem to feel at home in NS now.

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.


    Utter rubbish!!! There a literally BILLIONS of cod in the sea!!!

    You sound like the anti whaling mob who destroyed a perfectly sustainable and profitable whaling industry!!!


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