Alun Davies, Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and European Programmes
The current Common Fisheries Policy is broken. It has not delivered a sustainable source of food or employment. It simply has not worked, but instead, encouraged a situation where vast quantities of prime fish are being thrown away dead or dying, while our fishermen struggle to survive to the benefit of neither the environment nor economy. For this reason, I welcome the recognition by the Commission that wholesale change in the way we manage fisheries is needed.
On the 13 July the Commission published its first draft proposal on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy. Having considered the document I wish to make it clear that while it is a good first step, we have a long way to go before the final policy is adopted. As the Deputy Minister with responsibility for fisheries in Wales, I am concerned that the document lacks any real detail and appears to raise more questions about how it will impact the fishing industry here in Wales than it answers.
There are 4 key issues for Wales. The obligation to land all catches - essentially a ban on the discarding of fish, the introduction of compulsory tradable fishing concessions, small scale coastal fisheries and regionalisation.
The throwing away of dead or dying fish must end, however the proposals lack any real detail as to how this can practically be achieved within the current quota based regime. I await further details from the Commission before the impact on the Welsh industry can be properly considered.
Tradable fishing concessions will remove latent capacity from the industry at no cost to the tax payer and give fishermen a stake in the good management of the fishery. For this reason I see no issue with this proposal for the industrialised offshore sector. However, I am concerned that there seems to be a lack of safeguards for the small scale inshore fleet such as we have in Wales. I believe that this proposal should not be mandatory and should be left to the Member State to implement as it sees fit.
There needs to be recognition of the differing natures of parts of the fleet. A one size fits all approach also cannot work effectively. In Wales, the inshore fleet has an increasingly important role to play within coastal communities. There is a risk that the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy will focus on difficult issues in relation to the sector without any sensitivity to the nature of the inshore fleet. The stocks targeted by the inshore fleet tend to be localised and dynamic and therefore do not lend themselves to management approaches that the EC currently applies to quota stocks. Therefore, the reform proposals need to recognise the differing natures of the offshore sector, and the inshore fleets.
Before the proposals were published, the Commission had talked about increased regionalisation of European fisheries management. However, there seems to be little in the way of real progress on this issue.
This is only the beginning of the process. With ‘codecision’ now in place both the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament will scrutinise the proposals and I expect many changes to be made over the next year or so. I will keep the Assembly aware of the key issues as they develop and the impact on the fishing industry in Wales as it becomes clear.