Putting an end to discards continues to be high on my agenda.
On Tuesday I heard the views of the fishing industry, environmental NGOs and naturally fishermen, who will be ultimately responsible for making the change happen.
The meeting was interesting beyond my expectations; it showed that there is a much wider support than one can think. Also, the approach of all the participants in the event, finally, was very constructive, aimed at defining the solution to a problem that we all want to tackle. It is clear that the first and foremost goal must be to avoid discards, to avoid catching what we do not want to. Bearing this in mind, we can then work out together solutions to make the best use out of those by-catches that will still be unavoidable in European fisheries, which are very often mixed.
Several initiatives are already in place, but we are running late. We need to have mechanisms applied on a much wider scale than to date and to define other technical measures that can contribute best to eliminate discards and we must do it now. The voluntary approach that has been followed until now has showed its limits. The proposal for a reformed Common Fisheries Policy is going to be adopted by the Commission in July and “sustainability” will be the compass guiding our steps. If the question of discards is not properly addressed, the reform will be lame.
But there is no one-size-fits-all solution: European fisheries have their own peculiarities and fishermen’s culture is not the same in all EU countries. For this, we need mechanisms adapted to geographical areas and type of fisheries. In addition, as we cannot have as many ships controlling that the ban is respected, as the fishing vessels at sea, we need fishermen to take ownership of the reform and be the first ones wanting it to be effective. So we need a gradual approach and the right incentives for the fishing sector.
But these measures can work only if they can contribute to creating a level playing field and for that we need to follow a precise calendar, equally valid for everybody, which will be set by the EU institutions.
I need to thank all those who attended Tuesday’s event. Now we have to reflect on their interventions.
On the same subject: “Can We Tolerate Discarding?“