What the main representatives of the fishing sector consider suicide is, from an ecological point of view, an historic advance. One thing on which both parties do agree is the importance of the vote made this week in the European Parliament. The Strasbourg chamber gave the green light to a report submitted by German eurodeputy Ulrike Rodust that signals the end of the practice of throwing unwanted catch — the vast majority dead fish — back into the ocean.
The text of the report approved by an ample majority in the chamber also aims to put the brakes on overfishing in European waters. Those opposed to the initiative expect that it will be watered down in the process of being enacted. Although scheduled to be put into place next year, first it must go through a long process of negotiation with the 27 member states and the European Commission.
The Popular Party has been the harshest critic of the initiative. “The proposal is hugely damaging to our fishing sector. We agree that the practice of discards must come to an end, but we would prefer to do it flexibly and not in an immediate manner,” said PP eurodeputy Gabriel Mato.
“If this is to be the result of a common fishing policy, fishermen are in danger of extinction,” added Javier Garat, secretary general of the Spanish Fishing Federation and president of its European counterpart Europêche.
On the other end of the rod, those that support the initiative believe that quite the opposite is true and the move will safeguard the sector by laying the groundwork for stocks to recover by 2020. “[This policy] will allow us to increase hauls by 15 million tons and create 37,000 new jobs,” said Rodust.
The EC and Strasbourg want to end the practice of discards, which represents 25 percent of total catches and is a serious danger to the ecosystem. In principle, fleets will be obliged to unload their entire catch at port from 2014, the first step in a specific calendar for each species that aims to achieve continent-wide adherence by 2020.
The proposal also calls for the regionalization of decision-making, support for traditional fishing methods, sustainable practices and an increase in the profitability of the sector.
The biggest stumbling block is overfishing: the EC estimates that 80 percent of Mediterranean populations and 47 percent of Atlantic reserves are overexploited. The main causes of this are overcapacity of fleets, excessive catches and the widespread flouting of the regulations.