Irish Minister for Agriculture, Food and Marine, Simon Coveney T.D following a long and tense set of negotiations brokered political agreement at todays Council of Fisheries Ministers for the introduction of a Europe wide discards ban.
The decision made by the Council of Ministers in Brussels is a very important decision for the future of European fisheries and is a clear expression of the will of the Council to consign to history the current discard practices in European fisheries.
The decision is also important in that it will allow the Irish Presidency, on behalf of the Council, to engage directly with the European Parliament and Commission with a view to reaching political agreement on the reformed Common Fisheries Policy during the Irish Presidency.
Balancing divergent Member States views with the need to deliver practical and implementable measures to facilitate agreement on the early introduction of a discard ban in all the waters under the jurisdiction of the EU was always going to be a difficult challenge.
Minister Coveney “ I have been a strong advocate for the elimination of the wasteful practice of discards over many years, to my mind todays decision by the Council of Ministers is a historic milestone in European Fisheries Policy”
Discarding is a highly complex issue and occurs in almost every fishery, in every area and across most fleets in the European Union. Every Member State operating fishing operations on the open sea has a discard problem. Many Member States have significant levels of discards in certain fisheries, and for varying reasons.
In Brussels today, Minister Coveney secured agreement for an ambitious phased approach to introducing the discard ban. Starting in January 2014 for pelagic stocks moving onto the Baltic Sea in January 2015. The discard ban will apply to the main demersal stocks in the North Sea and the North and South Western waters from January 2016. Finally the discard ban will apply to fisheries in the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and all other Union waters on 1st January 2017.
“We have set an ambitious timeframe starting in January 2014, for introducing the discard ban underpinned by specific management tools to ensure its delivery.”
Putting an end to discards is a key objective in the reform of the CFP supported by all Member States. A very important element in delivering on this objective will be the introduction across all fisheries of smarter and more selective fishing gear selectivity measures and changed fishing practices that avoid to the greatest extent unwanted catches particularly those of juvenile fish.
The practical measures agreed today, will assist fishermen in the transition to the new environment. These measures provide transitional arrangements to support the change over to the new landing obligation. They also provide flexibility in terms of maximising quota options so that fisheries will not be closed unnecessarily The new EU fisheries fund will be available to support fishermen with the move to more selective and sustainable fishing practices.
Minister Coveney said “ I have been a strong advocate for the elimination of the wasteful practice of discards over many years, to my mind todays decision by the Council of Ministers is a historic milestone in European Fisheries Policy”
The Minister went on to say “ The discarding issue was always going to be contentious and resolving it difficult, not that there was any disagreement on the overall objective, but because there were divergent views on the associated management tools needed to make a discard ban a reality in practice”
On the details of the measure the Minister said “We have set an ambitious timeframe starting in January 2014, for introducing the discard ban underpinned by specific management tools to ensure its delivery.”
The Minister paid tribute to his Ministerial colleagues by adding “ I have to thank my Ministerial colleagues for their co-operation, help and stamina in agreeing this very ambitious programme for change. I would also like to mention the contribution I have received from Commissioner Damanaki throughout the whole process”
Concluding the Minister added “It has been a long day and night, but a fruitful one. We can look forward to the completion of reform of the Common Fisheries Policy with confidence, in the knowledge that we have taken a major step to secure the long term sustainability of the stocks in European waters. ”