Euro deal will help fishing communities, claims MEP
A block on spending billions of pounds on bigger fishing vessels has been hailed as goods news for the Westcountry fleet, hard pressed fishing communities and stocks.
This week, British members of the European Parliament prevented the spending on fleet renewal which was being earmarked largely for France and Spain.
Instead, a vote in the European Parliament will target funds on helping boost the revival of depleted stocks and restore long-term livelihoods for struggling fishing communities.
South West of England and Gibraltar Euro-MP Graham Watson said the decision as proof that the EU was serious about improving its fisheries policy
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“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,” he said.
“Grants of this kind were scrapped a decade ago, when 90 per cent of the money was going to France, Spain and Portugal.
“To have reinstated them would have been a massive step backwards.”
Mr Watson said fishermen only have a future if fish stocks are helped to recover.
“We must ensure that there is a plentiful supply of fish for our children and grandchildren to enjoy and to ensure Britain has a sustainable food resource.”
At stake in the vote was a European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) worth 6.3bn euro (£5.4bn), part of which was being earmarked by France and Spain for fleet renewal.
This was a policy abandoned under the CAP more than a decade ago as dwindling fish stocks forced Brussels to pay fishermen to decommission boats and retrain for other work.
With some stocks well on the road to recovery, the nations with the biggest fleets wanted to use EMFF funding for 2014-2020 to help finance building big new boats.
But British MEPs argued successfully that the priority remained to curb overfishing and rebuild fish stocks, which meant using available funds to help fishermen adjust to long-term change, rather than helping them catching more fish.
The deal reached in the end also promotes fisheries sector job creation by making available up to 40,000 euro over two years for fishermen aged over 50 who hire young fishermen and train them in sustainable fishing methods.
Greenpeace welcomed rejection of subsidies for building new boats.
Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “Europeans want to see healthy seas and an end to overfishing, not perverse subsidies that undermine these goals by keeping an oversized fleet afloat.
“The European Parliament has put its weight behind positive initiatives, calling for more research on stock recovery measures and the monitoring of fishing vessels. This can help make sustainable EU fisheries a reality, as long as governments follow the direction that Parliament set.”
The vote is still subject of negotiations with EU governments, due to start next month.