Euro-MP wins another fish fight

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Our local Euro-MP Chris Davies won support from MEPs for beleaguered fish stocks in a marathon voting session today in Strasbourg.  MEPs from France and Spain attempted to put aside large amounts of taxpayer money for fleet renewal – effectively giving fishermen cash for better boats that could catch more fish.

Chris, who founded the cross party Fish for the Future group of MEPs, led the fight to prevent more subsidy cash being wasted on measures that would encourage overfishing and the further decline of fish stocks.

The European Maritime & Fisheries Fund (EMFF) will provide €6 billion towards the fishing industry between 2014 and 2020.  MEPs approved payment of subsidies to help fishermen adjust to change but not to catch more fish.

Chris welcomed the decision as proof that the EU was serious about improving its fisheries policy, saying “We still have too many boats chasing too few fish, so to use public money to pay for building new boats would only make the problem worse. Grants of this kind were scrapped a decade ago, when 90% of the money was going to France, Spain and Portugal.  To have reinstated them would have been a massive step backwards.”

“Fishermen only have a future if we can help fish stocks to recover.  That is why Lib Dem MEPs supported investment based on sound science rather than subsidies for the few.”

The Parliament supported the use of funds to help fishermen buy more selective gear, to improve port facilities, and to obtain more scientific data about the state of fish stocks.

‘Save Our Fish’ Group Formed

Chris Davies MEP

Chris Davies MEP

A cross-party campaign group of European MPs has been formed to prevent the “hijack” of plans for radical reform of EU fisheries policies. Tameside Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies took the initiative to create the ‘Fish for the Future’ group. He says its objective is to ensure that there are more fish in the sea and more jobs for fishermen.

The new body already has the support of MEPs from 14 countries, including Tameside Conservative Sir Robert Atkins and Labour’s Linda McAvan (Yorkshire). With up to 80% of fisheries being managed unsustainably the European Commission intends to propose major policy reforms later this year.

EU Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki has already announced that she wants a science-led approach and aims to ban the wasteful practice of discarding fish into the sea, dead, when quotas have been exceeded. Fisheries management will be transferred from Brussels to regional organisations involving local fishermen, food companies and environmentalists.

But Chris Davies warns that the reforms are likely to face tough political opposition and are at risk of being hijacked. He said: “In many European waters there are too many boats chasing too few fish. Capacity must be reduced and that will be fiercely resisted.

“Our seas are capable of supporting many more fish than now exist after so much overfishing. We cannot allow the agenda to be set by short term thinking that ignores the need to ensure that we have fish on the table in 50 or 100 years’ time.”

The MEP claims that support for reform has the support of all parties in Britain but faces likely challenges from MEPs and ministers representing Spain, France, Italy and Portugal.

He said: “The Coalition Government’s fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, is arguing the case for change at every opportunity, but the extent of opposition he faces will become known only when the European Commission publishes the details of its plans.”