EU eyes fish quota shake-up to replenish stocks

21st April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The European Commission wants to replenish EU fish stocks within four years by introducing national quota trading in moves already upsetting key fishing states in France and Spain.

According to a draft bill obtained by AFP, European Union fishing commissioner Maria Damanaki's overarching aim is to have stocks delivering a "maximum sustainable yield" by "no later than 2015."

To do this, she wants markets essentially to achieve what politicians cannot -- which is to hack back the size of Europe's fishing fleet, already decimated in many coastal areas by reforms allowing big Spanish or French boats to roam well beyond their traditional waters.

The mechanism will be the introduction of a "mandatory system of transferable fishing shares," which means quotas that will be traded on national market registers.

"Transferable fishing shares constitute a major driver for fleet capacity adjustment," the document states in a euphemism for more painful downsizing for trawlermen.

The smallest boats under 12 metres (yards) will be exempt, the plans underline.

But Brussels also wants to end the practice of throwing fish that "should not be caught in the first place" back into the sea, also bringing in an "obligation to land all catches of specified stocks," ie to count them towards their catch quotas whether or not they find hungry markets.

Diplomatic sources say the likes of France and Spain feel the moves go too far.

© 2011 AFP

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