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Fishing rules hit Catch-22 situation

Published by FiskerForum, 01-11-2017 · info@fiskerforum.dk

The NFFO reports that there are deep concerns within the fishing industry that an impasse between the European member states and EU Parliament over technical conservation rules will place fishermen in the impossible position of having to abide by conflicting sets of rules – one requiring some fish to be discarded while another rule demands that it be landed.

As the NFFO points out, this is potentially important for the UK as constraints on Parliamentary time could mean that EU technical conservation rules retained from the CFP could remain in force in the UK for some time after March 2019.

The Commission has proposed the replacement of the old technical rules (EC 850/98) with a framework that provides for member states to develop their own technical rules through regional policies, such as North Sea or Western Waters, with baselines round about the present levels as a baseline safeguard.

‘Apart from being an example of the discredited top-down prescriptive approach to fisheries legislation, regulation 850/98 had once central flaw which made change absolutely necessary. Catch composition rules made it obligatory for fishermen to discard fish caught outside predefined catch composition percentages, such as the 5% cod requirement.'

‘This approach was and is therefore completely incompatible with the landings obligation, where all quota species must be landed,’ the NFFO said.

‘In going through the co-decision process, the Commission’s proposal was amended by the Council of Ministers to reintroduce some elements of the catch composition rules; and it is this version that is now under consideration by the European Parliament. Some 733 amendments have been proposed by MEPs, most of whom would not be able to tell a cod-end from a tethered sheep.’

It seems increasingly likely that that the European Parliament will follow the Council approach and reintroduce catch composition rules. This would leave the fishing industry facing a continuation of the complex mesh size and catch composition rules and there will be no real change from the current mess.

‘In other words, the vessel’s skipper would be legally obliged to both discard and retain fish caught outside the catch composition percentages,’ the NFFO spokesman commented.

The NFFO presents a couple of solutions, which are either reverting to the Commission’s proposal which had quantitative targets for species but not catch composition rules which are instead applied at fishery rather than at vessel level, or else leaving the question of how to define smaller mesh sizes entirely to the member states at regional level, thus avoiding requiring catch compositions in the European level legislation.

‘Whatever solution is chosen, we are adamant – skippers must not be placed in the situation of having to meet contradictory legal requirements.’

Source: NFFO

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