Brussels is to announce proposals for a radical change in the Common Fisheries Policy on April 17. Commissioner Franz Fischler has hinted he is looking for changes in the way trawlermen operate. Pressure for action across the EU is mounting as there is a near-consensus that fish stocks are now reaching a critical state in the North Sea and North Atlantic. And with the EU already spending 11bn a year on the CFP, the major proposed changes will be to encourage fishermen to re-train for alternative careers outside the industry. The proposals focus on a Europe-wide reduction in fishing fleets so that fish stocks are allowed to recover from over-exploitations, enabling better management in the future. The proposals will also point to annual negotiation of fish quotas with greater surveillance of trawlers to enforce agreed limits. The EU also wants to see uniform fines for breaches in quotas. All of these changes will not be popular with France, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece who are already joining forces to ensure their fishing fleets are as unaffected as possible by the changes. Many of these states argue that fishing is an important part of their economy and any changes should be gradual to lessen any impact. For the proposed plan to come into effect by the end of the year, as envisaged by the EU, it looks as though a compromise will need to be reached with the larger fishing states. {{MEAT }}

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