THE Common Fisheries Policy is at last beginning to move away from policies dominated by conservation to a more economic and practical outlook, the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said this week.
The NFFO made its comments after attending a recent European Commission conference in Malta, which included EU Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella, the director General João Aguiar Machado and other senior Commission officials, along with wide range of stakeholders.
In his opening remarks, Commissioner Vella observed that environmental priorities had for a number of years been accepted by policy makers and fisheries stakeholders as central to their thinking; but the same could not be said about an acceptance of the importance of economics by the environmental lobby.
The NFFO said: ‘He dismissed the usual attempt to balance environmental and economic dimensions in favour of integrating both into policy. Often this was a matter of dealing with short-term costs to secure long term gains.
‘Much was made during the conference about the comparatively weak collection and use of economic data in decision making and the absence of a proper system for undertaking meaningful impact assessments before major regulatory changes.
‘The landings obligation was repeatedly referred to, not just as the biggest challenge currently facing European fisheries, but a complete step into the dark, especially in terms of its economic impact across a wide spread of fisheries.’
The NFFO has observed that the United States had a fishery management system that declared a mandatory timetable for all stocks to be managed at maximum sustainable yield, with quotas applied to all commercial species and where there was no discard ban.
Norway had also adopted successful resource policies that delivered higher yields.
It added: ‘The point was made that the approach being attempted by the EU would inevitably produce the potential for a large number of chokes, as the exhaustion of one quota in a mixed fishery would theoretically close down all fishing for that vessel, management unit, or member state.
‘This reflection led the head of NOAA, the US fisheries administration, to observe that what the EU was attempting ‘seems quite extreme’.
The NFFO argued that the debate on the future management of small-scale fisheries has been impoverished by a narrow focus, and selective use and misuse of statistics.
If this sector was to move to a clear eyed, effective, fair and rational management approach, it will be important to address these macro-scale issues as well as understanding the dynamics of each individual fishery.
The NFFO concluded: ‘This was an important conference which may signal a significant change in direction away from a dominance of an exclusively conservation focus, to one in which twin environment and economic objectives are considered together. There is some way to go.’