Groups seek reform of EU fisheries policy


NINE IRISH groups have signed up to an international lobbying campaign seeking fundamental reform of the EU’s common fisheries policy.

Birdwatch Ireland, Coastwatch Europe, the Irish Seal Sanctuary and the Irish Wildlife Trust are among the groups subscribing to the Ocean 2012 initiative to place environmental objectives at the heart of the European Union’s management of “blue Europe”.

The controversial fisheries policy is undergoing its third review since it was initiated in 1983, and the European Commission has agreed that “fundamental reform” and “dramatic change” is required. The input of Irish stakeholders was discussed with Irish MEPs for the northwest region at a seminar in Sligo late last week.

Irish fishing industry organisations agree in principle on the need for change to end wasteful practices like discards (portion of catch returned to water) which have been highlighted in the recent Channel 4 television “fight for fish” campaign.

However, the sector is wary of environmental initiatives that do not adequately reflect the reality of the average fisherman struggling to make a living with shrinking quotas, falling fish prices and rising fuel costs.

Ocean 2012’s spokesman Mike Walker is hoping that Irish industry groups will work with his project, which maintains that a sustainable fishing industry will survive if an eco-system-based approach is at the heart of management.

Ocean 2012 is run by the Pew Environment Group, the conservation arm of a US non-profit group, the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The trusts support an office in Brussels which is building a broad alliance. The trusts are independent, non-profit and non-partisan. The 1948 founders espoused free market values and were politically conservative.