This was a different kind of December Council in a number of important ways. Many delegations…
Drift Net Ban hanging on by its fingernails
The ill-conceived European Commission proposal for a ban on small-scale drift nets is badly wounded but lingering on in intensive care.
All the signs are that the Commission now recognises that the proposal was a colossal misjudgement; but having made the proposal, and with co-decision involving the European Parliament still in in its infancy, it feels that it can’t lose face by withdrawing its own proposal. The impression is that the Commission wouldn’t be too disappointed if its own proposal just evaporated or someone else (the Council or the Parliament) put it out of its misery.
The UK government and other member states, the regional advisory councils, and even some NGOs have formed an orderly queue to denounce the proposal as a misconceived blanket measure that would rob a significant number of small-scale fishermen of their livelihoods, or in some fisheries at least a significant part of their livelihoods.
The NFFO led a delegation of small-scale fishermen to Brussels in September last year to explain, in detail, to the Commission, what the effect of a ban would be and to emphasise that the drift net fisheries practised in the UK are fully in line with the best sustainability criteria. Some of them are MSC accredited.
The proposal now languishes in the European Parliament. Although it has been quite hard to read the voting arithmetic in the EP Fisheries Committee, there seemed to be a majority of MEPs in favour of killing off the whole proposal. Others, although accepting that the proposal is flawed, want to retain the parts that would let them deal with deficiencies in enforcement in the Mediterranean.
The whole issue has now become procedural. The driftnet proposal was meant to be voted on this week in the PECH Committee. MEPs have however, decided to postpone the vote (probably until next month) pending more information from another committee. The Chairman and the Coordinators will draft a written question to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) seeking this procedural clarification on the admissibility of amendments 22, 23, 24 which seek to reject the Commission proposal completely.
The NFFO will continue to work with Europeche, the UK Government, the regional advisory councils and individual MEPs, to ensure that this mistake never sees the light of day.