This was a different kind of December Council in a number of important ways. Many delegations…
Commissioner Challenged on “Cosmetic” TACs
EU Fisheries Commissioner, Joe Borg, was challenged by the NFFO to move beyond TAC reductions and minimal by-catch limits, which provide an illusion of dealing with difficult by-catch issues, towards real solutions to difficult conservation issues.
At a recent meeting of the Advisory Committee for Fisheries and Aquaculture in Brussels, the NFFO made clear that the Commission’s proposal on porbeagle, spurdog, skates and rays was primarily a public relations exercise whose main effect would be to move catches from landings to discards.
Incidental by-catch in mixed fisheries (or as in the case of skates and rays where there is a conservation problem with the populations of some species within the group) present a major challenge. Experience shows however, that solutions can be found. These are usually technical solutions that require close working collaboration between fishermen and gear technologist and scientists. In turn, to make this kind of approach to work requires time, resources and goodwill.
The Commissioner made clear that the Commission’s proposal for the December Council would be for a zero catch of porbeagle and a minimal by-catch for spurdog.
The Commission knows very well that this approach will not save a single shark or dogfish. What it will do is to send an entirely cosmetic signal to the environmental lobby and the broader public that that the issue is being addressed by cutting TACs. The environmental lobby is complicit in this fiction.
In the meantime, the goodwill within the fishing industry to engage with scientists to eliminate unwanted by-catch is squandered and initiatives stalled, in favour of an illusion of progress.