ISSN 2330-717X

EU Fisheries Council Sails Into Troubled Waters


(EurActiv) — The EU Fisheries Council meeting on Monday will direct Europe’s fishing fleets to confine their trawling off the coast of developing countries exclusively to “surplus resources” of fish, according to draft council conclusions seen by EurActiv.


This would give priority access to local fishermen, who depend on the seas for their communities’ dietary needs.

“Due account should be taken of the coastal states’ priorities in favour of its own fishing sector, while the Union should seek an appropriate share of the surplus resources,” the document says.

But the conclusions stop short of measures that would reduce Europe’s fleet capacity, a politically contested safeguard against further depletion of the world’s rapidly dwindling fish stocks.

“This is the root of the problem,” Saskia Richartz, a Greenpeace spokeswoman told EurActiv. “There are just too many boats, and not enough fish – and that encourages illegal fishing and overfishing, including by large EU trawlers in the developing world.”

Greenpeace claims that in just 10 hours on 14 March, their ship the Arctic Sunrise took action to stop seven “EU mega-trawlers” – which can each catch up to 250 tonnes of fish a day – from hoovering up marine life off the West African coast.


The change on Monday would establish guidelines for making such practices illegal.

Marine biodiversity

Protecting marine biodiversity is an EU policy goal, with implications for the continent’s fish-eaters and fishing communities alike.

An EU communication last July instructed member states to “put in place measures to adjust the fishing capacity of their fleets in order to achieve an effective balance between such fishing capacity and their fishing opportunities”.

But no deadline was attached, and the EU’s reformed Common Fisheries Policy last year also called for the issue to be addressed globally, perhaps with one eye on the gathering storm over the EU’s inclusion of foreign airlines in the Emissions Trading System.

“A high-level [international] conference to discuss ways of reducing capacity will be called for by the EU by 2013 to pave the way for a process aimed at addressing overcapacity at a global level,” the document said.

Discarding declaration

Environmentalists’ fears that the issue is being sidelined may be heightened if, as reported, France and Spain issue a declaration at today’s EU Fisheries Council aimed at blocking EU plans to ban the practice of discarding less profitable – but still edible – fish in the sea.

The Guardian newspaper reported last week that an EU compromise allowing fishermen to land all the fish they catch in exchange for compensation has met with strong opposition, centred around companies with industrial-scale vessels.

At least a million tonnes of fish and other sea animals caught in the North Sea alone are discarded every year, according to a recent World Wildlife Fund report.

The discards amount to about one-third of the entire North Sea catch, the report said.


EurActiv publishes free, independent policy news and facilitates open policy debates in 12 languages.

2 thoughts on “EU Fisheries Council Sails Into Troubled Waters

  • March 20, 2012 at 6:53 am

    What “surplus”?

    Fish stocks EVERYWHERE are threatened.

    Commodification and fishing for the “market” is destroying this resource like many others.

    A perfect example of (l%)GREED over ruling (99%) NEED!!

    Let us hope that occupiers can expand and include fisheries before the capitalist way creates lifeless oceans.

  • March 20, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Amen david tarbuck. Capitalism is built on plundering the planet. Africa has been a plunder grounds for Americans and Europeans for at least a couple of centuries. The West complains about Somali pirated who are unemployed fishermen whose fishing gounds have been pirated by the West.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.