NEWS that UK fishermen had won an early victory in the EU fish talks was welcomed last night by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations as finally halting the runaway train that was the EU Cod Management Plan.
The NFFO said that after scientists evaluated the EU Cod Management Plan in 2011, it was only a matter of time until the political process initiated the changes recommended: a move away from undue reliance on quota reductions and days-at-sea restrictions. The Commission has proposed many of the changes suggested.
"But the time issue became of utmost importance. There was a great deal of concern, within the industry and beyond, that the conflict between the Council and the European Parliament on long term management plans would hamper and delay a move towards more intelligent fishing. In the meantime, the fleets have been struggling under punitive reductions that were never foreseen by those who signed the original Plan
"Without this breakthrough there was a real prospect that all the progress that has been made on catch quotas, real time closures and improved selectivity in the cod fishery would have been put into reverse. It means also that there will not be a huge increase in discards in 2013, because the North Sea cod quota can be set in harmony with the quotas for haddock, saithe, whiting and plaice. The TACs for all of these quotas are set to increase in 2013 mainly by the maximum amount permitted plus 15 per cent.
The Federation concluded: "At times the EU Cod Management Plan has seemed like a runaway train. The Council has now limited the damage that it can do and there is a realistic prospect of moving forward."
"This is a key milestone on the long road of reforming the badly broken CFP, and I am pleased progress is now finally being made.
"I support the committee proposals on sustainable fishing and to phase-in a package of measures to end the wasteful practice of discarding perfectly good fish at sea.
"The committee have importantly rejected proposals for transferable quotas, proposals which would have seen Scotland's fishing rights be owned by those with the deepest pockets, and have also watered down crazy proposals for blanket closed areas.
"Although I welcome the Committee's vote, there are certain aspects that we feel can still be improved, particularly in relation to regionalisation. The proof of the pudding will be if this delivers decision making back to Scotland so that our fisheries can be managed in the way that suits them best."
As part of this landmark vote on the CFP , the Committee also agreed to require EU member States to assess and eliminate fishing overcapacity and to provide financial aid only to member States or operators that observe EU fisheries rules. But like most EU votes, the devil will be in the detail which will become clear next year.
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