WWF cries ‘scandal’ over French plans for fish quotas
BRUSSELS, January 20, 2008 - Global conservation group WWF described as a"scandal" Sunday suggestions by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that EUfishing quotas be eased, saying the limits must if anything be toughened. "If Mr Sarkozy's idea is to soften the system to increase fishingopportunities, that's a scandal," Charles Braine, WWF's fisheries specialist,told AFP. Faced with complaints about quotas and the high price of diesel, Sarkozytold some 300 fishermen Saturday that he would tackle the issue when hiscountry takes over the European Union's rotating presidency in July. "At the moment, when all the world is saying the resource (fish) isreturning, there must be a more flexible response on quotas, whatever thespecies and locations where they're being caught," he said. But Braine said: "It's quite populist" and "doesn't make sense", and headded that the EU should try to put in place a system that better protectsfish stocks. "The fact is, the EU's policy of quotas has failed. It has not passed thetest because fish stocks are still low," he said. "Quotas handed out todifferent countries are systematically over-shot, leading to illegal fishing. The European Commission adopts fishing quotas for the 27 nation EU inDecember each year, with the aim of ensuring that stocks can be sustained,based on scientific advice. The 2008 quotas have been widely condemned by the French fishing industry,not least for demanding a 44 percent cut in the national herring and whitingcatches, and 56 percent for mackerel. Polish fishermen, too, have complained about cuts in quotas for Baltic cod. The Commission's fisheries spokeswoman, Mireille Thom, said that Brusselswelcomes "favourably all contributions to the debate on common fishing policyaimed at improving the management of fisheries in the EU". She declined to comment further without more specific details aboutSarkozy's intentions.