MEPs gave their stamp of approval to three high-profile fishing laws on today(10 December) in Strasbourg – a controversial fishing agreement with Morocco, new restrictions on deep sea fishing and reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
MEPs voted by 310 to 204, with 49 abstentions, to approve the new Morocco fishing protocol that controversially includes waters in the disputed territory of Western Sahara. In 2011 MEPs rejected a previous deal struck by the European Commission because it included the territory. Western Sahara is under a military occupation by Morocco which is not internationally recognised. MEPs also said the cost-benefit ratio of the previous agreement was not enough and that it would allow unsustainable fishing.
Under the arrangement, expected to also be approved by member states, fishing vessels from 11 EU countries will be allowed to fish in the waters in return for an annual EU payment of €30 million, with an additional €10 million from the ship-owners. This sum includes €14 million earmarked to support the development of the Moroccan fisheries sector.
Centre-right Spanish MEP Carmen Fraga Estévez, who was guiding the legislation through the Parliament, called it “an excellent deal for both sides, which fulfils all the conditions requested by the European Parliament in its 2011 resolution”. But Green Spanish MEP Raül Romeva called the deal “the most shameful episode in the EU’s neo-colonial fisheries policy.”
MEPs also voted today to water down a European Commission proposal to restrict deep sea fishing in the North-East Atlantic. The Commission had proposed to completely phase out bottom-trawls and bottom-set gillnets that are indiscriminate in what they catch. The Parliament voted narrowly (342 to 326) to apply the ban only to areas with sponges, corals and other vulnerable marine ecosystems.
“The European Parliament came close but ultimately could not find the resolve to phase out deep-sea bottom trawling, one of the most destructive fishing practices,” said Matthew Gianni, policy advisor to the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “None the less, a number of the measures agreed to by the Parliament today would, if effectively implemented, help limit the damage to deep-sea ecosystems.”
But the fishing industry said the complete ban was impractical. “I welcome the decision of the European Parliament not to ban the use of a fishing technique, following the recommendations from the international scientific community,” said Olivier le Nézet, president of the fishing industry-supported group Blue Fish. “This text acknowledges that deep-sea fishing can be performed in a sustainable and responsible way.”
MEPs also gave their final approval today to a reform of the CFP for the period 2014-2020 which will end discards by the end of 2015. George Eustice, the fisheries minister for the UK who campaigned for an end to discards said on Tuesday “The long fight to reform the broken Common Fisheries Policy and end the shameful practice of perfectly good fish being thrown dead back into the sea has been won.”
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