Chris Davies, Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson in the European parliament, heralds the reforms to European fisheries policy
On 30 May, MEPs, representatives of EU governments, and European Commission officials agreed a package of major reforms to the EU common fisheries policy.
The deal marked the culmination of two years of hard bargaining and, although the agreement has its weaknesses, it marks a step change in Europe’s approach to fisheries policy.
In comes a legally binding commitment to set annual quotas so that fish stocks are gradually replenished. Out goes the requirement that trawlers discard fish if they exceed their quota, replaced instead by an obligation to land all but 5% of the fish caught each year. Long-term management plans will be prepared for every fishery.
Partnerships between workers in the industry and scientists will start to exercise more control over day-to-day fisheries management. EU environmental legislation affecting marine life must be respected, and EU vessels fishing in distant locations must accept sustainable practices.
Is everything going to be perfect from now on? Of course not. Compromises had to be made to secure the backing of Spain, France and others reluctant to change.
Enforcement of the principles may be slow and difficult. But if the glass is half empty or half full, I prefer to take the optimistic view.
Over-fishing has destroyed jobs in the industry and left Europe dependent on imports. Landings of fish continue to decline. But lessons have been learned. There is a strong desire to correct mistakes, listen to the scientists, and embrace sustainable principles.
There are already encouraging signs that new controls in British seas are rebuilding stocks.
We can build on this deal, introduce step-by-step improvements, and put in place a fisheries policy that commands the respect of the industry and environmentalists alike.