The day you all went to Strasbourg, and made history

Posted by Willie — 7 February 2013 at 10:49am - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
"Victory for citizen power" said Roger Harriban, BBC, environment analyst

Where were you when you heard the news? I was sitting in a very chilly train station in Edinburgh, cursing a delayed train, unable to extricate myself from Twitter to go get a restorative coffee, when the news came through: Members of the European Parliament, those elected but often-maligned creatures, had voted overwhelmingly in favour of radical, progressive reform of Europe’s fish laws.

This was a stonking result.

On Wednesday 6th February, Parliamentarians from all 27 of the EU member states voted one by one on specific fishy issues, then they got to the big vote – to decide whether or not to adopt the whole package of measures agreed – and voted almost 5 to 1 in favour of the sort of reforms that us fish-heads could only have dreamed about a year ago.

I’ll try and put it into layperson’s speak, as I know the Common Fisheries Policy is about the least sexy topic anyone could talk about, but the suite of measures they overwhelmingly agreed to support, in this one-a-decade reform package, included:

  • Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
  • Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
  • Banning discards
  • Priority access to those who fish in environmentally & socially beneficial ways
  • Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters

What made it all go so darned well then?

Well, you did. If you’re reading this there’s a good chance you’ve already helped. You might have signed a fish card; or a petition; you may have emailed or written to your MEP, or minister; you might have tweeted, or shared a video or message through Facebook; you might even have gone all the way to Strasbourg and dressed up as a fish to raise awareness.

The fact is that across Europe there was an unprecedented cooperation between campaign groups,fishermen, champion politicians, retailers, and celebrity chefs like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and his European doppelgangers) – making sure that our MEPs quite simply could not ignore what their electorate wanted. 

Roger Harriban of the BBC described it as a ‘victory for citizen power’. So, thank you citizens! You’ve helped set Europe on the road to a fish-filled future.  Here in the UK we can also be proud that our MEPs voted overwhelmingly in favour of sweeping reforms.

And that was despite powerful opposition from nations like France and Spain, who have typically been major stumbling blocks to any real change.

This overwhelming endorsement from EU Parliamentarians comes just two months after theinfluential fisheries committee also endorsed a radical reform package. The mood has shifted. The European public now expects things to change.

But will they?

Well there are a few more hurdles, but they should be easy to clear, if our governments have been paying attention to the public mood. The next stage will see a period of getting agreement from European Fisheries Ministers for the final package of reforms that is adopted. That could take several months still.

Greenpeace certainly won’t be letting up on this campaign until it’s all over, and after this week’s deserved celebrations are over there is work to be done. It’s now up to all of us, campaign groups, and powerful citizens like you to make sure Richard Benyon and his colleagues know what they have to deliver, in Brussels and at home – a fish-filled future for Europe’s seas.

Willie Mackenzie is Head of our Oceans Campaign for Greenpeace UK

Fantastic Victory!! Thanks to all involved in this crucial campaign, these results can only be achieved by working together as a team. The work is not finished yet but so far so good...

Let's get on to phase two!


At last - a victory for that least likely, and nearly extinct, beastie: COMMON SENSE! Just when you thought it next-to-impossible, it proves to be possible and achievable - a great result for ALL concerned.

Pause for thought... perhaps that should be the next big campaign for both Greenpeace and all concerned lobby groups - the resurrection and re-establishment of Common Sense. It has proved to be so Uncommon in recent years that it has almost lost its place in the public psyche and needs a huge supportive push to revive it - who knows what can be achieved if it actually becomes common again? Ah, dreams are made of such as this!

Am cautiousbecause they haven't outlined yet  how much they'll allow fisherman to catch and zero about boat size limits. If it becomes another power grab / corporate loophole then it could be a nightmare. 

No one is talking about boat sizes and this is crucial. Don't call them 17000 ton SUPER trawlers, call them Hoover Ships. 

Good progress for my future as a fishmonger but lets hope it's not all temporary hot air to appease the masses.

In order to get funding for local sustainable projects like a storm proof cage that could be used to farm bivalves (mussels/clams) that live off plankton and not unsustainable fish feed, ie, wild fish out of the food chain, we should have an Ocean Offset scheme which could be supported by restaurants and fishmongers like myself. Massive important sentence. Am sithefish1 on twitter and need help with this idea, originally told to me by Simeon Warburton, keen environmentalist and muse. HELP!!

Another victory by Greenpeace! Bravo!!

Fantastic! And is only the Start.....

About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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