There is not much time left to act . . .

Chris Davies MEP

The vote of the entire European Parliament on reform of the Common Fisheries Policy is due to take place on Wednesday 6 February, following a debate in the chamber at Strasbourg the day before.

The Parliament’s Fisheries Committee voted on the issue before Christmas, and the 13-10 outcome was very satisfactory. Amongst a number of useful proposals it was agreed that legally binding targets should be set to rebuild fish stocks above maximum sustainable yield (MSY), and to end discards by introducing an obligation to land all catches.

The vote will give all MEPs the chance to support or reject this package, as well as to consider any further amendments that have yet to be tabled.

The aim of reformers is to maintain the positive momentum, and alert MEPs who may be sympathetic but rarely take regard of fisheries issues to the importance of supporting reform on this occasion. We’re confident but certainly not complacent.

Once the Parliament has voted we expect the rapporteur (the MEP designated to take a lead) to open negotiations with the Irish deputy ambassador whose task it is to try and thrash out a deal that will be acceptable to both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. Compromises will inevitably be reached, but the rapporteur, German social democrat Ulrike Rodust, has done a good job so far and she will be no pushover. Her negotiating position will be strengthened if reformers can secure a commanding majority on February 6.

I am expecting British MEPs of all political parties to be supporting the reform position on MSY and discards. However, you might like to email your region’s MEPs and encourage them. You can do that easily by visiting www.writetothem.com and putting in your postcode.

I shall let you know if hostile amendments are tabled, and if we need further help to try and ensure that they do not win support.

With regards

Chris Davies MEP
Secretary, cross-party ‘Fish for the Future’ group
Lib Dem environment spokesman

In a further e-mail:

Some 70 additional amendments have been tabled, but few are of fundamental significance. The exception being one from the European Peoples’ Party that significantly weakens the commitment to end discards. Fortunately the EPP is not united around this, with German and Scandinavian members amongst others dissenting from the Spanish-French-Italian line.

However, there will no doubt also be calls for separate votes on some of the measures that supporters of sustainable fishing will regard as positive. I am sorry to say that some MEPs would prefer to carry on in the same old way rather than put in place the measures necessary to rebuild fish stocks and give the entire fishing industry better prospects for the long term future.

This is the first time that MEPs have ever had the chance to really affect the future shape of the CFP. They will be using the powers that stem from the Lisbon Treaty. It gave the Parliament the same equal right with Ministers to amend or reject EU fisheries legislation as it has long enjoyed in other fields, such as environment laws.

I want us to secure the largest possible majority in favour of reform, because once Parliament has decided its position the rapporteur, MEP Ulrike Rodust, will lead negotiations with the Irish Presidency to try and hammer out an agreement with the Council. The indications are that some Ministers in the Council (not Richard Benyon of the UK) are backsliding on reform undertakings they gave last year, so MEPs will need to push hard and having a big majority behind them carries moral and political weight.

Almost all UK MEPs are expected to support reform and, in particular, to vote to end discards. A question mark may hang over the two SNP MEPs who perhaps need some more encouragement, and the position of the UKIP MEPs is in doubt. As they oppose the CFP ‘on principle’ I expect them to vote against the entire package at the very end but their support for reform amendments along the way would be welcome. After all, if there is going to be a Europan policy it is better for the fish for it to be good rather than bad. Names of these MEPs can be found on the website of the European Parliament.

Thanks for all your help so far. My fingers are crossed, but I feel there is a real momentum for change and that the public are more engaged with this issue about the future of fish in our seas than ever before.

 

Sample letter:

Dear, Insert relevant MEP’s,

On February 6th you will all have the opportunity to vote on fundamental reforms to the Common Fisheries Policy that will be a major step in restoring European fish stocks, ensuring a sustainable source of healthy food for generations to come, a future for fishermen who rely on robust stocks and a properly functioning marine environment, and a healthy recreational sea angling sector important to the quality of life of millions of Europeans.

Please ignore the appeals of those who would gamble the prospect of short term gains for the few now against the long term needs of so many both now and across future generations.

Yours sincerely,