Despite what EU Fisheries Ministers may say, CFP reform is failing

MARINET observes: Despite what EU Fisheries Ministers may say, CFP reform is failing. The reality is that EU fish stocks can now only meet the EU’s requirements for fish for six months of the year due to depleted stocks and over-fishing, and the reform process has failed to recognise that a cardinal principle of CFP reform must the restoration of “food security” – namely, the ability to meet our need for fish for all twelve months of the year, and to do so year after year.

To arrive at this situation, we have to restore stocks to healthy condition and to allow them to re-attain the maximum levels of abundance that current ecological conditions will permit. Consequently the CFP reform process needs to reference “maximum sustainable yield” (i.e. annual catch levels and quotas) to these abundant stock level targets, but it is not doing that. Instead, it is referencing annual catch levels and “maximum sustainable yield” to the current depleted stock levels which means, in essence, that stocks will continue to be over-fished because their true potential will never be restored.

This is folly because not only do we fail to re-establish food security, and so continue to rely on fish stocks elsewhere in the world which are also experiencing their own over-fishing pressures, but we also fail to rebuild our fishing industry – thus losing out on a huge increase in income to the fishing industry and the national economy if stocks were rebuilt. In short, the CFP reform process has simply no “future vision”, other than the reckless dalliance with commercial extinction upon which it is currently engaged.

What CFP reform should be doing is moving away from the failed extraction-based management principles which are forever trying to set catch levels as high as scientific advice will allow and subsidising an endless expansion in the catching capacity of the EU fishing fleet, and shift instead to conservation-based management principles where the restoration of stock levels based on the re-establishment of food security becomes paramount, with fishermen receiving subsidies for both themselves and their vessels and thus re-employ them as the managers of closed areas centred on fish spawning and nursery grounds whilst these stock levels are rebuilt. The virtue of this logic is so self-evident, with a revitalised fishing industry as the outcome, that one is left totally confounded as to why the politicians and fishermen’s organisations cannot see and comprehend such obvious common sense.

As the ancients used to say “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad . . . .” At the moment, The EU governmental institutions, and those fishermen who are governed only by self-interest, seem beset with such madness.

However, MARINET believes that the governmental institutions who permit persistent over-fishing and the collapse in fish stocks, which are a public asset, are in breach of their fiduciary trust to manage these assets for the common good, and are acting also contrary to the requirements of international law as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOSUNCLOS The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, also called the Law of the Sea Convention or the Law of the Sea treaty.). This being so, the law may yet be able to intervene to terminate this madness.

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