Publicado por: pongpesca | 2010/01/27

Reeling in EU Fishing

“The EU struggles to find a fairer system for fishing in Europe.

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Without significant changes to fishing policy, fishing stocks are predicted to drop off significantly. (Flickr Creative Commons)
In an effort to preserve declining fishing stocks, in 2001 the European Commission ruled almost 400 square kilometers of waters off-limits to fishermen. Closing an area larger than the city of Detroit disrupted the lives of the many fishermen who relied on those waters to make a living. But after the grumblings of the fishermen and the cheers of environmentalists subsided, Commission experts admitted an embarrassing fact: By diverting fishermen into even more vulnerable fisheries, the closure had done more harm than good.

The reasons for the Commission’s regulation of fishing make sense enough. Technological advancements have given modern fishermen the power to fish the oceans clean, and without any sort of regulation they have no short-term incentive not to do so. A 2006 report in Science went so far as to claim that current trends could lead to the extinction of most species of fish by 2050. And since fish don’t obey political borders, the task of preserving fish in Europe has been delegated to the European Commission, the EU executive, and its Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

The CFP has been around since the 1970s, but for many years its regulations were simply not enforced. The structure of the EU leaves implementation and enforcement of EUlaws up to member states, which can choose how strictly they want to enforce them. In Britain, enforcement was lenient.

“No one adhered to the rules during the first 15 or 20 years of CFP,” said Mike Park, a retired fisherman who now heads the Scottish White Fish Producers Association. Besides the “tacit recognition that we shouldn’t be landing too ridiculous a number of fish,” fishermen were free to skirt the rules on the total catch allowed by selling off fish before landing and filling out their official log books, he said.

This leniency led, predictably, to a failure to maintain a sustainable rate of fishing. Mike Walker, a senior associate with the Pew Environment Group’s European Marine Program, pointed to the Commission’s own report, which found 80 percent of monitored stocks were over-fished. left un-countered, these trends could cause “disastrous consequences for fishery-dependent coastal communities and the marine environment,” Walker said in an e-mail message.

And the problem has had significant geopolitical consequences. In the search for more fisheries, European fishermen have expanded into African waters, depleting thoseresources and displacing African fishermen. The resulting economic damage has fueled resentment against Europe, and in some cases, desperate attempts to immigrate to the wealthy states of the EU.

Holes in the Net

The Commission has steadily toughened its regulations in response to these failures. Since 2004, the CFP has mandated source documentation of every transaction to clarify who is catching how much fish. There are also restrictions on the total fish that can be caught per year, per country, and per fisherman as well as on the number of days at sea and on the size of the nets, all of which vary by species.

Fishermen and their representatives generally claim that the CFP both harms their industry and fails to achieve its goals. The CFP “increases costs and decreases wages,” said Rory Campbell, science and environment policy officer of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation. The policy is “reducing income and reducing morale,” he said, by restricting time at sea and amount that can be caught.

In the eyes of fishermen, the salt in the wound is that despite its strict regulations, many CFP policies fail to reduce overfishing. One of the most visible of these policies is the limit on how many fish fishermen can bring to shore. If they catch too much of the wrong kind of fish, they are required to throw them back. According to the World Wildlife Fund-Germany (WWF-Germany), this becomes the fate of over a million tons of fish each year. WWF-Germany told the Environmental News service at the time that such discarding is “one of the largest threats to many sea creatures.”

Most fishermen have a long list of grievances against the CFP, which they accuse of simultaneously failing to achieve its objectives and harming their livelihoods. Above all, they claim that the CFP’s problems are built into its structure.

“The principal reason for failure is the highly centralized command-and-control approach, remote from the specific fisheries,” said Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen Organization. “It’s a blunt measure operating through a one-size-fitsall approach across widely diverse fisheries.” In addition, in a majority of the cases, scientific advisors do not have enough information to provide sound advice. “I think it’s fair to say that it’s a broken system,” Deas said.

On a day-to-day level, fishermen are frustrated with micromanagement that seemingly achieves nothing. Due to the Commission, “highly descriptive rules come from above that fail in implementation,” said Deas. Park, a 30-year fisherman, said that it is now “very difficult to become efficient and profitable. The CFP micromanages the fleet so that businesses can’t adapt to changing circumstances.”

Going Greener in the Big Blue

Environmental groups aren’t any happier with the policy, which they see as lenient, underenforced, and ultimately ineffective. But beyond that, Greenpeace objects to the quotas, which they see as not limiting fishing enough. “A seaworthy policy would drastically reduce the number of fish that are being taken from the sea,” Saskia Richartz, Greenpeace EU oceans policy director, said in a press release.

The political nature of the program leads to policies that favor those with power just as much as the common goals of the EU. “Catch limits should be set by scientists, not by politicians,” said Walker of the Pew Environment Group. And according to Walker, politicians must face the harsh reality that “fishing capacity must be brought in line with available fishing resources.” In other words, the EU needs to stop subsidizing fishermen, enforce the laws strictly, and, if necessary, reduce overall fleet size.

While the Commission is often portrayed as insulated from citizen input, even it has acknowledged the failings of its current system. A 2007 report commissioned by the agency responsible for the CFP called the model for the program “an archaic form of governance.” This admission has resulted in a complete review of the CFP, with the hope that changes can be introduced by 2012.

Encouragingly, fishermen’s federations as well as environmental groups acknowledge the importance of limiting both the adverse financial and environmental impacts of the policy. Fisherman are pragmatic, and recognize that “sustainable fisheries are profitable fisheries,” as Campbell put it. Richartz, of Greenpeace, wrote that CFP has failed by causing EU fisheries to be the Òmost unsustainable and least profitable fisheries in the world.”

On the receiving end of the command-and-control system, fishermen advocate for the right of regional organizations to design their own fishing plans in line with EU sustainability standards that would then need approval at the EU level. “If you did that, you could remove a lot of the micromanagement, and you would also generate a sense of responsibility for the stocks,” said Deas.

Inside the European Parliament, whose members are held more directly responsible for the needs of constituents back home, the issue has a sense of urgency. A spokeswoman for Struan Stevenson, a Scottish member of the European Parliament and vice-president of the Fisheries Committee, said Stevenson called for the abolition of the CFP, warning that “most fishermen will not survive until then, particularly if this most recent round of cuts is implemented.”

The agreement on the need to fix the CFP might make reform seem like a slam dunk, but not everyone is convinced of its smooth sailing ahead. “The Commission keeps on making noises that there will be a big reworking, but I don’t think they’ll take as big a plunge,” said Campbell. “They have their hands tied by member states” who want to protect the interests of their domestic fishing industries.

Fishermen have staked out the line that no Brussels-based regulator, no matter how skilled or knowledgeable, can adequately regulate a highly complex marine ecosystem. And environmentalists, to some degree, agree that the Commission’s powers have hampered the ability of member states to protect their own marine resources. In reforming the CFP, the Commission faces pressures from member states and the possibility of shrinking influence. As the Commission sets sail on this path, the tangle of competing interests portends a debate that may very well leave all parties unhappy.

Andrew Feldman is a junior Political Science major in Morse College.”

Fonte: The yale Globalist – Andrew Feldman – 23 de Janeiro de 2010


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