It’s crunch time (again) for Europe’s fish ministers

Posted by Willie — 13 May 2013 at 12:56pm - Comments
All rights reserved. Credit: Greenpeace
A full page ad calls for Benyon to support sustainable fishing

If you listen to Ronan Keating much (I don’t) – you’d be familiar with the concept that Life is a Rollercoaster.

But for some of us, it’s a bit more accurate to liken the process of reforming Europe’s failed fish laws to that particular fun-fair ride : full of twists and turns, highs and lows, moments of hopeful elation, followed by moments of abject panic and fear. And sometimes making us reach for a sick bag.

Okay, that may be a stretch. But if you’ve been following the process of reforming the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) you may well be a little confused. The timeline keeps changing, and you are repeatedly told that ‘this is it! Crunch time!’ or ‘Yay! Well done! Good News!

Sadly this complicated process is the reality we European fisheries campaigners have to engage with, and if it’s confusing for us, imagine what it must look like to fishing communities across Europe scratching their head over the prolonged opaque process of fixing something we all know is broken.

Reform of the CFP is supposed to happen every decade. This one was supposed to be done and dusted in 2012, but it has dragged on. That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the combination of public interest and pressure has meant that this reform process has been under the political spotlight like never before. Groups like Greenpeace and Hugh’s Fish Fight have been working together across Europe to make sure that politicians know what is on the line for our seas, and giving voice to the coastal fishing communities that depend on them. We’ve been making sure the people elected to represent us in faceless buildings in Brussels & Strasbourg know what we, and you care about. The most visible result of that was the astounding success in the European Parliament in February where MEPs voted 5 to 1 for a hugely ambitious package of reforms.

That though, was not the end of the process. Now it’s down to a tricky task of getting agreement between the Parliament’s progressive position, and the, er, slightly less-progressive position being taken by Europe’s fisheries ministers. This, folks, is the messy, but important, bit at the end.

This week, on Monday, Tuesday, and probably the early hours of Wednesday, the fisheries ministers will be meeting again. Steered by the EU presidency we are being told this will be the last-ditch attempt to agree their collective position.

So that’s why we now need our minister Richard Benyon to step up to the plate. Throughout the process he has championed the need for real reform, and now we need him and his like-minded colleagues to lead the charge for a progressive agreement on that reform. He needs to deliver on the fine words and promises.

Only if our ministers agree a good compromise does it look like a deal can be done with the Parliament for far-reaching reform – reform so desperately needed to ensure healthy seas and vibrant fishing communities in the future. Failure, or ever more delay surely cannot be a viable option at this stage.

That’s why, in conjunction with WWF, RSPB, Ocean2012, NEF and MCS, we placed a message to Richard Benyon in today’s Daily Telegraph.

Richard Benyon, your time is now. We’re counting on you to deliver.

If you want to tell Benyon you’re counting on him too, you can tweet @RichardBenyonMP #CFPreform

And if you want to show your support for Europe’s low-impact fishermen, you can sign up here. We’ll be sending on all your support for the small-scale fishing sector to Benyon and his European colleagues.

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