EU fisheries ministers have paved the way for a Europe-wide discards ban and more sustainable fishing, EU Council president Simon Coveney has claimed.
Fisheries ministers from the EU member states have spent the past two days in Brussels thrashing out a mandate for the EU Council to use in finalising the new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) with the Commission and Parliament.
“I believe that the historical package agreed this morning will prepare the way for a European-wide discards ban”
Simon Coveney, EU Council president
“I believe that the historical package agreed this morning will prepare the way for a European-wide discards ban, facilitate more sustainable fishing levels in addition to appropriate management of fleet capacity and a workable regionalisation policy,” said Coveney, who is also Irish minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
The outcome followed very difficult and complex negotiations, Coveney added, and amounted to a significant compromise to allow further negotiations. It would, however, help achieve several key aims of the CFP reform process, he said.
UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon said the agreement was good for the UK. “This was a difficult negotiation, and although it is not as ambitious as I would have liked, we have stuck to our key principles. This package of reforms fulfils our promise to make discards a thing of the past and ensure sustainable fishing for future generations,” he said.
Greenpeace said precise details of the deal were still “patchy”, but that it was concerned ministers had settled for a low level of ambition. “What is clear, despite the efforts of the Irish EU presidency, is that there is still a significant gap between the reluctant stance of some countries and the progressive position of the European Parliament,” said Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richrtz.
Negotiations finished this morning at around 6.20am.
Ireland is leading negotiations with the Parliament and the Commission in as it currently holds the presidency of the EU Council. It aims to finalise the text of the CFP by June.
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall praised the UK government in fighting for a meaningful fish discards ban. The chef-turned-food-industry lobbyist reported on his Fish Fight campaign blog the “good news that the new Common Fisheries Policy has been kept on the rails” and that the commitment to a discards ban had survived the latest round of negotiations.
“Richard Benyon and other forward-thinking ministers deserve credit for persuading the French and Spanish that exemptions to the discards ban should be tightened up,” he said.
“Richard Benyon and other forward-thinking ministers deserve credit for persuading the French and Spanish that exemptions to the discards ban should be tightened up”
As they stood, the Common Fisheries Policy proposals would result in some fish being discarded overboard, Fearnley-Whittingstall added, but he urged that any flexibility in the discard ban should aim to help in-shore fishermen who worked in a low-impact way.
The European Parliament, however, was quick to criticise ministers for failing to go far enough. “Ministers have made certain concessions but I would have liked to see a more courageous decision,” said Parliament rapporteur Ulrike Rodust.
The European Commission said the Council had made a good step forward and really tried to come closer to the Parliament’s position to find a compromise. “I think we have positive news this morning and I hope that in the coming weeks, we can work we can work together with the Parliament and the Council to facilitate the procedure to come to a first deal,” said European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki.