Subsidies for fishermen will ruin conservation reforms, warns adviser
October 17 2012 Lewis Smith
A senior adviser to the European Commission has warned that reforms designed to conserve fish could be wrecked if subsidies for fishermen are agreed.
Franz Lamplmair said there is a “real danger” that proposals to modernise the European fishing fleet using funds from Brussels will severely damage marine sustainability.
The European Maritime Fisheries Fund is designed to help coastal communities and fishermen as reforms of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) are introduced.
It was originally intended to help communities and fishermen develop new ways of supporting themselves but some European countries, including France and Portugal, are trying to win concessions that would mean European taxpayers’ could be used to keep fishermen fishing.
If the amendments to the original proposals are accepted it would mean fishermen could be given subsidies to replace engines in boats and to introduce other improvements.
Similarly, they could be paid stop fishing temporarily and there have even been calls to reintroduce payments for scrapping vessels, a policy that has previously led to increases in fishing capacity.
Mr Lamplmair, adviser for fisheries policy at the European Commission’s Common Fisheries Policy reform team, told a conference in London that any measures to increase fishing capacity would be “absurd” and warned of the dangers of allowing subsidies for the fishing industry.
He said: “We have to be really careful not to have a reform of conservation policy which is jeopardised by massive money pumped into the fleets through the EMFF.”
Fishermen should instead of subsidies be exposed to the market forces that any other business faces, he believes, which would help reduce overcapacity in the European fleet. “If there are no funds for scrappage the problem will solve itself."
Reform of the CFP is running months late and instead of being in place by January next year it is now unlikely to be agreed by European Union member states before mid or even late 2013.
The adviser told the Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum that while enormous progress has been made towards reform, much of the detail still needs to be agreed.
Among the biggest achievements, he said, is an agreement that fishing effort should be guided by the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) that fish stocks can bear.
He also welcomed progress towards banning discards though he recognised that much of the detail is still undecided. General agreement has also been reached on the decentralisation of fisheries management which will allow regional decision-making, a move the UK has been pushing for.
There was a public outcry against discards last year when celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall launched the Fish Fight campaign to end them. More than 825,000 people have signed up to the campaign.
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