Borg admits policy hurts environment and profits

A MAJOR new review of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is to be carried out amid continuing concerns over the wasteful dumping of fish at sea among other issues.

Announcing the investigation this week, EU commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries Joe Borg admitted that in its current form the CFP was causing ecological damage and undermining the profitability of boats.

The CFP, which was set up in 1983, is reviewed every 10 years, but the last one took place in 2002. It is clear from Mr Borg’s comments that reforms introduced in the light of that review have only been partially successful in the EU’s view.

Mr Borg said: “While com­missioners agreed that the 2002 reform package had done much to improve the way EU fisheries are managed, a number of challenges continue to exist.

“Short-term decision-making, coupled with irresponsible behav­iour by certain parts of the industry, continue to penalise those fisher­men who act for the common good. The result is a vicious circle which has undermined both the ecological balance of our oceans and the economic profitability of the sector.

“There is no alternative to the Common Fisheries Policy when it comes to managing the mobile international resource that our fishing industry depends on. But, in its current form, the CFP does not encourage responsible behaviour by either fishermen or politicians. The management tools we use reward narrow-minded, short-term decision making, which has now undermined the sustainability of our fisheries.”

The review was welcomed in Shetland. Chief executive of Shetland Fishermen’s Association Hansen Black said: “The system very much needs reviewed. We have a current management system which simply cannot adapt to changes with fish stocks on the ground. It’s too slow and cumbersome.”

Mr Black added that it was essential to introduce management mechanisms that were much closer to those actually operating in the industry at local levels and not from a distance in Brussels.

Worryingly, however, for those in the industry Mr Borg, who insisted consultation over the way forward will be widespread, said the EU fleet was still too big, with the ability to catch between two and three times the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Informal discussions are to take place at the next meeting of fisheries ministers at the end of this month, and it is expected that a consultation document will be issued early next year.


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