EU ministers agree to overhaul fish dumping policy in bid to revive stocks

Greenpeace warn watered down proposals threaten the chances of reforming rules

Brussels

European Union ministers have agreed to overhaul the bloc's fishing policy, but campaigners warned that the most ambitious aspects of the plan were under threat after member states watered down key proposals aimed at reviving stocks after decades of overfishing.

Environmental groups had in February hailed a vote at the European Parliament, which approved a raft of radical reforms including a blanket ban on discards, the controversial policy of tossing dead fish back in the sea if a fleet exceeds its quota.

But while EU fisheries ministers emerged on Wednesday after 36 hours of talks with a commitment to reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CAP), they only agreed a partial ban on discards. They also refused to set a date for the restoration of fish stocks, a key demand of MEPs and campaigners.

The member states will now take their counter-proposals back to the European Parliament and try and reach a compromise. But the MEPs could refuse to back the proposals, extending what has already been three years of gruelling negotiations.

The environmental group, Greenpeace, warned in a statement that unless EU ministers were willing to budge on some aspects of the reform, the whole plan “will be thrown off course and threaten the chances of reforming fisheries rules in 2013”.

Ulrike Rodust, the European Parliament's chief negotiator, said they would examine the proposals ahead of the next round of negotiations at the end of this month.

"Ministers have made certain concessions but I would have liked to see a more courageous decision," she said. “I hope that we can come to an agreement... but I cannot guarantee that. This reform is too important for the environment and for the fishermen and therefore cannot be rushed."

About 80 per cent of Mediterranean stocks and 47 per cent of Atlantic stocks are overfished after decades of plunder by industrial fleets working under rules devised in the 1970s. Discards have been particularly divisive. The practice allows fleets to net quantities of fish exceeding their quota, then simply throw any unwanted dead fish overboard.

MEPs wanted a complete ban on discards starting from 2014, but the minsters yesterday agreed to a phased ban from 2015, while still allowing 5 per cent of the catch to be discarded.

“If implemented as such, poor management of our fish stocks and the knock on effect it has on our seas is likely to continue for yet another decade,” said Helen McLachlan, fisheries programme manager at WWF-UK

Some nations with large fishing industries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece had resisted any reform, and the British fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, said it was a step forward that those nations had budged at all. “Although it is not as ambitious as I would have liked, we have stuck to our key principles,” Mr Benyon said.

Other measures agreed include new limits on catches and the transfer of decision-making powers from Brussels to national fishing organisations.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, the British chef leading the Fish Fight campaign to revive fish stocks, said he hoped that the EU member states would move closer to the position of the parliament in the last stages of the negotiations.

“Hopefully it will be signed and sealed shortly so we can replace the current broken system as soon as possible,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales & Marketing Assistant

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This UK based B2C and B2B multi...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Executive - Opportunities Across The UK

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join a fast growing, UK based I...

Recruitment Genius: Events Consultant

£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A position has arisen for an ex...

Recruitment Genius: Injection Moulding Supervisor

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Busy moulding company requires ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003