European Fisheries Limited to Save Cod, Hake

BRUSSELS, Belgium, December 23, 2002 (ENS) - Fisheries ministers from all 15 European Union nations have reached agreement on a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, on catch volumes and quotas for 2003, and on a plan for recovery of the cod stocks in the North Sea.

The agreements on catch volumes and quotas for 2003 include reductions for those fish populations in a critical condition. This means reductions for cod as well as for those fish species in mixed fisheries for cod.

The plan for recovery of the diminished numbers of cod and hake includes temporary measures with a 45 percent reduction in the cod fishery and an upper limit to the number of days at sea.

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Danish Fisheries Minister Mariann Fischer Boel chaired the meeting. (Photo courtesy Office of the Minister)
Fisheries Council chairperson, Mariann Fischer Boel, said as agreement was reached on Friday, ďThis agreement takes into account the situation concerning threatened fish stocks, and ensures a sustainable fishery in the future. This has been an extremely important task to solve, and itís no secret that itís been a difficult process, where everybody concerned has had to give way in order to reach this compromise."

"Everybody has worked constructively," she said, "and I think weíve reached a good result which strikes a balance between consideration for threatened stocks and consideration for the industry and local communities, where fishing is of great importance."

WWF, the conservation organization, is convinced its virtual demonstration in favor of limits to overfishing was partly responsible for the ministers' decisions.

Over 20,000 people demonstrated virtually Friday outside a meeting of the European Union's fisheries ministers in Brussels to call for reform of Europe's fisheries policy.

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WWF demonstration in front of the ministers' meeting hall (Photo courtesy WWF)
Although they were not physically present in Brussels, WWF demonstrated the strength of the demands for fisheries reform by erecting a six meter (18 foot) tall lighthouse outside the ministers' meeting, which displays the names of the more than 20,000 people who have signed the petition, plus the photos and video clips they have submitted.

"The EU's Fisheries Policy is pure madness, and people around the world are saying it must stop," said Karl Wagner, director of WWF's European Fisheries Campaign. "The future of our oceans, and of fishing communities, is on a knife edge."

The ministers agreed to phase out aid for building new fishing vessels. Aid for new building will continue until the end of 2004, but on stricter terms, where more capacity must be taken out of the fleet than is put in, with a ratio of 1:1.35 for vessels over 100 gross tonnes.

Tighter conditions concerning aid for modernizing vessels are being imposed. Modernization may not increase the ability of the vessel to catch more fish. Aid can be granted only for improving safety and working conditions, or improving technology for handling and sorting the catch.

Greater emphasis will be given to limiting the number of days that fishing vessels can be at sea to fish so as to secure the recovery of threatened fish populations.

There will be more effective and uniform control across the European Union, including greater cooperation between member states, and there is the possibility that the European Commission will monitor national control efforts.

The Councilís competence to set quotas was upheld, and the ministers agreed to maintain relative stability for access to fish resources, as well as the agreements on the 12 mile fishing zone.

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Hake is a species at risk of overfishing. (Photo courtesy NOAA)
Aid for scrapping vessels will continue. Money for the aid is expected to be increased by changing priorities within existing national programs for 2003.

These measures apply from February 1, 2003, and until a final recovery plan comes into force from July 1, 2003. The European Commission will put forward a proposal on this on February 15, and it must be discussed and adopted by Council before the end of March 2003.

In addition, on Friday the EU fisheries ministers decided to give financial compensation to the many fishermen along the Spanish coast who have been affected by the serious oil pollution caused by the shipwreck of the oil tanker "Prestige" in November.

ďIím very pleased to inform you that today we have unanimously decided to give this help to those Spanish fishermen who are affected by this very serious situation. I would like to thank all my colleagues for being able to take a decision so quickly on the proposal,Ē said Fisher Boel.

After the accident, which led to the release of an enormous oil slick, fishing and shellfish production along the entire affected coast of the Spanish state of Galicia were closed, and shellfish production plants are damaged.

The Council has decided to make 110 million euros available for measures to alleviate the effects of the oil pollution. The aid measures are financed within the Spanish framework for aid to the fishing industry.

The aid is intended to compensate those who are employed in the Spanish shellfish and aquaculture sectors, and who have had to temporarily stop their activities. Aid will be available to replace damaged fishing gear, and for cleaning, repairing and rebuilding shellfish and aquaculture plants. Compensation will also be available to re-establish shellfish populations.

The proposal was put forward by the Commission Thursday and dealt with by the European Parliament in an emergency procedure, and adopted unanimously by the Council Friday.