EU 'rules the waves' in fishing power struggle

MPs want sea-change in fishing policy
MPs want sea-change in fishing policy

By Alex Stevenson

MPs are calling for a "sea-change" over the European Union's control of British fishing.

A report from the Commons' environment, food and rural affairs committee calls for a rapid return of powers back to EU member states to end "centralised micromanagement" which had "failed UK fishermen".

Rules like those surrounding the discarding of caught fish at sea have enraged the UK's fishing skippers.

There are now fresh moves to reform the common fisheries policy (CFP) which fly in the face of the wishes of national governments and fishermen to deliver a more local approach, today's report warned.

MPs said they had trawled the EU's legislation to find a way around Brussels rules. Changing its regulations would result in the required adjustments without a treaty change being necessary, they said.

"Countries across Europe recognise the failings of the CFP," committee chair Anne McIntosh said.

"Greater autonomy over fishing policy will be welcomed by many member states and so we call on the government to build alliances with like-minded countries to bring about the necessary reforms."

The committee recommended a scientific study to address the discarding issue. EU proposals are to implement a discard ban on many commercial species starting in 2014. MPs suggested more selective fishing methods should be considered.

"We heard first-hand from fishermen in Hastings how frustrating it is for them to have to throw back perfectly good cod into the sea," Ms McIntosh added.

"The commission is right to want to tackle this, but we are concerned that a knee-jerk reaction to the public outcry will do more harm than good. The last thing that we want to see is unwanted fish in the sea becoming unwanted fish in landfill."

One part of the solution might even be for the British government to serve more less-well-known species of fish in its canteens, MPs suggested.


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