THE Member of the European Parliament who visited Whitby last year to meet fishermen has spoken out about the new proposals which may finally help rescue Whitby’s fleet.
Although the turnout was poor when she visited Whitby, due to many fishermen remaining at sea, Linda McAvan, the Labour MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, says she has continued fighting for our local fishermen.
She said: “For the first time since the inception of the Common Fisheries Policy in 1983, members of the European Parliament will this year be able to take part in the shaping of fisheries legislation.”
This crucial change, courtesy of the Lisbon Treaty, gives MEPs the opportunity to work with ministers from the 27 member countries to reform what has long been one of the EU’s most controversial policies.
She added: “There are few advocates of keeping the policy as it is – the fishing industry remains in decline while fish stocks for many species remain significantly below healthy levels.
“No one is pretending the talks are going to be easy – opinions differ on how much emphasis should be put on sustainability and talks will come at a time when every country is wary of job losses.
“Yet, if we are to continue enjoying fish on our plates, then we must act now to ensure the recovery of stocks so that in years to come our fishing industry can prosper.
“Here in Yorkshire and the Humber, we can see the evidence of the struggles the fishing industry has faced in our own shrunken fleet.
“Stocks have declined dramatically since the second world war and fishing communities have had to find new ways of generating income.”
According to European Commission figures, 72% of all EU fish stocks are estimated to be over fished, posing a real threat to the long-term availability of fish in our seas.
“For this reason, the European Commission has now put on the table a new draft law for a major overhaul of the fisheries policy,” said the MEP.
“The most eye-catching change for many as the plan to end the current, hugely unpopular, policy of discards.
“Brought to wider public attention by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s documentary and accompanying Fish Fight compaign, the practice of dumping dead fish back into the sea by fishermen who have already caused their quota rightly caused outrage for its monumental waste and futility.
“Proposed changes will mean fishermen must land whatever they catch.”
However, the Whitby Gazette has spoken to a number of fishermen about discards and many disagreed with this opposition to discards.
While the idea of disposing catch back into the sea can be seen as wasteful, it preserves the fishermen’s vaulable quota as they are not forced to land undersized fish that they would then have to sell at a fraction of the usual cost
The new commmon fisheries policy is due to come into existence in 2013, but before that happens, members of the 27 EU member countries and the European Parliament must all reach an agreement.