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Guarded welcome for EU fisheries reform vote

Researchers and activists campaigning for reforms to Europe’s fisheries saw their worst-case scenario avoided in a vote in the EU Parliament today. However some of a multibillion-euro fund for supporting fishing will still go to activities they claim are damaging and retrograde.

Roughly €6.4 billion (US$8.7 billion) in subsidies for fishing between 2014 and 2020 are at stake, with conservationists pushing for the money to go towards improving sustainability and research such as data collection on fish stocks. But legislation being voted on today could also have channelled money towards renewing EU fleets with new boats and enhancing the ability of existing boats to catch fish, through engine modification, which some scientists say would further exacerbate Europe’s current overfishing (see ‘Europe debates fisheries funding‘).

In the end the EU Parliament voted against fleet renewal subsidies but for funding for engine replacement in the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Extra money was also allocated to data collection, another demand of scientists who have campaigned for reform.

This continues a trend set in February, when agreement was reached in the EU on reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy — a related regulatory framework that caps how many fish are caught — says Markus Knigge, a policy expert at the OCEAN2012 coalition of non-governmental organizations pushing for fisheries reform, and the Brussels-based European Marine Programme run by the Pew Charitable Trusts, in a statement.

“Consistent with the February vote, a majority of 427 to 204 members of all political groups in the Parliament supported increasing public aid for the restoration of fish stocks, with improved data collection, control and enforcement,” he said in a statement. “However, inconsistent with the February vote, members voted in favour of measures that will hinder effective implementation of an ambitious Common Fisheries Policy, such as subsidies for engine replacement and paying fishermen to temporarily stop fishing rather than actually reducing overcapacity.”

Maria Damanaki, who is European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and is among of those pushing for reform of Europe’s fisheries, said she was pleased with the overall outcome, particularly the rejection of subsidies for new vessels. “This will allow the EMFF to focus on funding projects which promote a sustainable future for the fishing industry and coastal communities,” she said in a statement.

Negotiations between Parliament and Council will now commence to determine the final rules.


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