What real CFP Reform means, and must achieve : Marinet Statement

In a statement to the Westminster Forum meeting on 10th September 2013, convened to consider “Next steps for UK fishing — consumer attitudes, sustainability and implementing the Common Fisheries Policy”, David Levy, Marinet chairman, said:

“Marinet believes that CFP reform means very little unless the reforms lead to a re-establishment of fish food security for the EU — defined as the ability to feed ourselves from our stocks for all twelve months of the year. Currently stocks are so depleted they can only meet our needs for six months of the year or less.

“Food security is vital not just for reasons of feeding the nation, but also because its attainment will lead to a revitalisation of the fishing industry a point not fully realised by the fishing industry — increased stocks mean an enlarged fishing fleet with a strong growth in income throughout the entire industry — and, it will also lead to a consequential re-invigoration of the natural, ecological condition of our seas. Both are serious plus points.

“Food security can only be re-established if we rebuild fish stocks to levels approaching the maximum levels of abundance which the seas will support. If fish populations are allowed to recover to this degree, not only are stocks genuinely healthy but so also is the future for the industry as a whole. This means that the definition of “recovery in stocks” (which to some degree has already resulted from closed areas) must go beyond rebuilding populations to a point where the spawning stock is no longer threatened with collapse. We need to be more ambitious. Not only because of the economic and ecological advantages, but also because if we simply reopen closed fisheries as soon as the spawning stock is “safe”, we also reopen the dangerous possibility of a repeat in the collapse of fish populations because they are neither strong nor large enough to withstand the sustained pressure of fishing all over again.

“Hence, the rebuilding of fish food security and abundant fish populations means that we must protect fishing spawning and nursery grounds. Unless we do, fish populations will never rebuild to the healthy and abundant levels that are so essential for a revitalised industry and marine ecology.

“This means that we have to re-examine the economics and financial subsidies which the industry receives. It means that fishermen must be compensated in a serious way for the closure of fishing grounds (spawning and nursery areas) and, in turn, that they and their vessels are re-employed as the managers of these closed areas. Fishermen are both best placed in terms of knowledge and expertise to undertake this managerial role, and also have a vested interest in ensuring that rogue fishing is not allowed to prosper. Key to all of this is the generous allocation of EU fishing subsidies from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund. Its annual 1 billion Euro budget can certainly meet this need.

“So when fishermen complain that politicians decide the CFP whilst it is they who are tasked with delivering it, as Bertie Armstrong intimated, let’s be clear : it is definitely in the interests of fishermen themselves to make a success of reform. They must use the new CFP and fishing subsidies to real advantage. They must embrace GPS and CCTV for the fairness it delivers, and they must do the same with the European Fisheries Control Agency which is their guarantor against crime and underhand behaviour.

“And, in a final comment to government itself — let us have genuine statistics and real honesty about the size of stocks — not extrapolations on the health of fish populations based on a sample that covers just a quarter of all commercial stocks. The industry deserves better. It deserves a genuinely secure future. The public deserve security of food supply. So let us have statistics which tell the truth and deliver this, and nothing less.”

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