Euro subsidies deal 'brings sustainable fisheries a step closer'
October 25 2012 Lewis Smith
UK fisheries ministers and officials are confident they have blocked moves that could have wrecked efforts to make fishing in Europe more sustainable.
In talks that ran late into the night ministers and officials negotiating proposed reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) agreed the framework of a fund intended to help fishermen and communities cope with changes and to improve their sustainability.
There were fears the creation of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) would be hijacked by EU nations determined to win new subsidies for their fishermen that would have the effect of increasing their capacity for catching fish.
But in two days of talks a compromise was agreed which the UK ministers and the European fisheries commissioner Maria Damanaki believe favours conservation and sustainability.
Ms Damanaki hailed as especially significant, and beneficial from the perspective of sustainability, the phasing out of payments for scrapping fishing vessels, a scheme that has in practice enabled fleets to increase capacity because modern vessels catch much more than clapped out boats.
Similarly, the UK was relieved that caps will be set on subsidies that enable fishermen to use taxpayers money to modernise their boats. In particular, subsidies for replacing boat engines will be capped at a maximum three per cent of each nation’s share of the EMFF. Caps of 15 per cent will, if the deal is ratified, be set on subsidies to fishermen for temporarily halting fishing, decommissioning or modernising vessels.
There remains concern that the 15 per cent cap may not differ enormously from the 26 per cent cap that existed under the previous system, the European Fisheries Fund (EFF). The budget for the EFF for 2007-2013 was €4.3billion, leaving €1.1b for modernisation, decommissioning and cessation while the proposed budget for the EMFF for 2014-2020 is €6.6b leaving €1b for modernisation, decommissioning and cessation.
However, with much of the remaining budget likely to be spent on measures such as introducing fishing gear that catches fish more sustainably than previously, there is an expectation that the overall effect of the EMFF will be to improve fish stocks. Nor has the final budget been set and further negotiations could see the a lower figure than €6.6b.
Ms Damanaki welcomed the agreement on the EMFF as an important part of reforming the CFP, though she remains hopeful the European Parliament will yet force through more of her original proposals.
She was pleased that the priority of the fund will be for, “Measures that improve scientific advice and control, increase selectivity and put in place the discard ban, favour small-scale fisheries, boost innovation, implement sustainability policies to reach Maximum Sustainable Yield and provide consumers with all the information they need.”
UK fisheries minister Richard Benyon said: “I am delighted that the Council has agreed to allocate the vast majority of the new EU funding stream towards implementing CFP reform. The priority for me has always been to make the changes that will be so vital for a reformed Common Fisheries a reality, and this outcome signifies a major step towards that vision. We are moving ever closer to the UK goal of being able to create healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment.”
Richard Lochhead, the Scottish fisheries minister, was pleased that, “Restrictions have been put in place to close the loopholes that allowed funding from previous schemes to be used by some in ways which went against the principles of fisheries conservation. Now the taxpayer can be sure public money will be used to promote fisheries conservation, not undermine it.”
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