Both sides of the Christmas break have seen intense activity at Westminster as the Fisheries…
Over-turning the EU Drift Nets Ban could be a long haul
The Commission’s hard-nosed response to concerns, expressed by the NFFO and others, about the proposed EU ban on drift nets, suggests that overturning the blanket ban could be a long haul.
Despite expressions of anger and concern from communities around the coast there is no sign, at this stage, that the Commission will withdraw its proposal, despite the effects the ban would have on the livelihoods small-scale fishermen and the fact that some of these fisheries are accredited as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Maria Damanaki’s spokeswoman, Helene Banner, has said that it is fully aware of the situation in the United Kingdom, but has no intention of withdrawing the proposal and hopes to have it in place by 1st January 2015.
The signs are that Defra is also of the view that this is a sledgehammer to crack a nut and will oppose the blanket nature of the ban, and press for other solutions to the problems faced in the Mediterranean. It is likely to be able to count on France as an ally, as it too has many small-scale seasonal drift net fisheries.
It is the scale of the Commission’s misunderstanding of the nature of inshore fishing that is frustrating. They seem to think that it is realistic or feasible to shift from drift net to purse seine or other gears at will. They have no understanding of the practical issues, never mind the licensing requirements. It smacks of Marie Antoinette’s lesser known remark, “Let them use seine nets.”
Having made a proposal, it will now follow the normal EU legislative procedure for co-decision but the Commission’s hope that it could be law by Christmas is well wide of the mark. The signs are that the Greek Presidency (to the end of June) won’t touch it and the Italian Presidency (July to December) have a lot of other things on their plate. In the European Parliament the proposal could be amended or blocked and the Council of Ministers will have their say in due course. Whatever the outcome it is going to take time and the outcome is likely to be something very different from the current proposal.
A happy outcome cannot be assumed however and it is important for the NFFO and its allies to ensure that all the decision makers know what is at stake. If we cannot get the proposal withdrawn in its entirety, we will press for significant amendments that will ensure the survival of our small-scale and fully sustainable drift net fisheries.