It was a great day for the marine environment and fisheries yesterday when the European Parliament voted to end overfishing by 2015 and allow the much depleted fish stocks to recover by 2020 with 502 votes for and 137 against.
The outcome is excellent news for fish and fishermen and signals a break with decades of overfishing and destruction of the marine ecosystems in Europe.
“The European Parliament made history today” commented Johanna Karhu, BirdLife Europe EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer. She continued “An overwhelming majority of MEPs listened to European citizens and voted to save life in our seas”.
The European Parliament went far in its position and voted to end overfishing and set a clear target to rebuild depleted fish stocks and to end the wasteful practice of discarding fish back to the seas. They also supported strict compliance measures and fishing fleet capacity assessments and reductions to adjust fishing fleet power to available fish stocks. A failure to comply with the rules of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) will lead to withdrawal of public aid from the fishing fleets. EU Member States will also be able to take emergency measures in the fisheries industry if there are urgent threats to marine ecosystems.
Furthermore, the CFP will need to follow principles of good governance, carry out environmental assessments and contribute to achieving good environmental status under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). The Parliament also voted for the establishment recovery areas for the recovery of fish stocks (MPAs), but no exact targets were set. Lastly small scale, artisanal and coastal fishermen will have preferential access to fishing, which will hopefully mean improved security for the livelihoods in small fishing communities.
In the run up to the vote, the public has made strong statements and petitions for an ambitious fisheries policy reform, for example, through the Paint-a-Fish Campaign that Birdlife also supported. A group of highly motivated Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also took the reform to heart and convinced the overwhelming majority of MEPs to stick with an ambitious reform.
“The Parliament has headed the call of citizens and done the right thing; sadly Fisheries Ministers in Member States seem to only be focused on short term political expedience” said Ariel Brunner, Head of EU Policy at Birdlife Europe.
The vote sends a clear message to fisheries ministers and governments that they need to be more flexible in their position and agree to more ambitious targets to safeguard the interests of present and future generations.