By Martin Banks - 5th May 2011
We have to be strong and change things
EU fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki says the commission is "committed" to delivering an "ambitious" shake-up of the common fisheries policy (CFP).
Speaking at a major seafood congress on Wednesday, she said the commission would come forward in July with a draft proposal for reform of the much-criticised policy.
She said, "We have to be strong and change things. The reform to the CFP which is vitally necessary will not be easy and you cannot please everyone. But I am confident the proposal we will come up with will find common ground."
Addressing the same briefing, Guus Pastoor, president of the EU Fish Processors and Trade Association, echoed the commissioner's comments, calling for a 'tailor-made' CFP reform.
Pastoor, whose organisation represents fish traders throughout Europe, said, "We need a fisheries policy that is more flexible and useful to entrepreneurs.
"This does not mean short term solutions or quick fixes but a proper assessment of the reasons why the current policy is not working."
Both were speaking at a three-day seafood conference at the Brussels' Expo which has attracted an estimated 24,000 visitors and concludes on Thursday.
Companies from around the world were out in force at the congress which is expected to generate millions of euros in new business. Sales in excess of €15m were generated from attendance at last year's event.
Speaking earlier on Wednesday, Damanaki issued a damning indictment of the CFP, saying that, "Our fisheries management system is not delivering a sustainable management of our resources and, in addition, incentivises fishermen to discard important quantities of fish."
The policy has been given over €1bn in commitments from the EU budget for 2011 alone.
The commissioner added that decision making needs to be simplified and decentralised without top-down micro-management from Brussels and that member states and the fishing industry need to be empowered and better involved.
UKIP MEP Marta Andreasen welcomed the "refreshing honesty" on the failure of the policy from the commissioner.
Andreasen said, "In an unprecedented and uncharacteristic move for an EU commissioner we have today a frank and stark assessment that the CFP has been an abject failure. To the many British fishermen still affected by the policy, and indeed those who have lost their livelihoods because of it, this is not groundbreaking news. Tell them something that they don't know.
"Commissioner Damanaki has given a damning indictment of a policy that has run its course. It has gone back to the drawing board so many times and each time has failed to deliver."
Meanwhile, Oceana, the international marine conservation organisation, has urged the commission to 'put an end' to the 1.3m tonnes of "wasted marine resources" every year.
Xavier Pastor, of Oceana, said, "The passivity of the CFP allows the use of low selective fishing techniques that cause discard rates as high as 90 per cent."