Proposals to reform the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) have been described as "disappointing" by conservation group the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
The WWF's director of European policy Tony Long described the CFP as a "once in a 10-year opportunity" to ensure the recovery of fish stocks and the prosperity of European fisheries, according to www.fishnewseu.com.
But the absence of a clear framework and timeline for achieving sustainable fisheries management remains an obstacle.
"There is growing alarm among civil society, businesses and consumers about the disastrous management of Europe's fisheries," said Long. "Ministers and MEPs must demonstrate the political courage to invest in sustainable fisheries management now or be prepared to carry the responsibility for ravaged stocks in the near future."
While the WWF welcomed the proposal's recognition of the need to exploit fish populations at levels that guarantee their survival and multi-annual plans to achieve this, crucial delivery mechanisms, responsibilities and timeframes are missing.
The mechanism proposed to deal with the overcapacity of the fleet, transferable fishing concessions, a very specific form of Rights Based Management (RBM), is described as inflexible and excludes safeguards to prevent a concentration of fishing activities to a small number of vessels or to guarantee a timely revocation of the concessions should conservation goals not be met.
The WWF said that it supports RBM but advocates a wide toolbox of schemes to suit any specific fishery, which is unlike what has been proposed by the European Commission.
Long said: "There is no ‘one size fits all' solution for the overcapacity of the EU fleet, given the variety of fisheries that exist in Europe. Nor will ‘the market' automatically solve this problem.
"WWF believes it is important to give fishermen a more secure stake in the fishery to boost stewardship, but this should be linked to clear conservation goals. As the proposal stands, this isn't the case."
The commission's intention to end the wasteful practice of discarding was also welcomed by the WWF.
But it said the proposed discard ban alongside the new option to commercialise undersized fish and those caught in excess of quotas is likely to encourage fishermen to fish less selectively, and it encouraged the widespread adoption of selective gear as one of the most effective measures for ending discards.
By Janie Stamford
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