EAA & EFTTA believe it is the right direction but that more action is needed
EFTTA and EAA lobbyist Jan Kappel has worked tirelessly on the following issues. Here he summarises the latest news concerning Article 47:
In November 2008 the European Commission published a draft for a new fisheries control regulation. The new regulation, which comprises 116 articles, proposes the inclusion of recreational fisheries for the very first time (Article 47). Anglers and charter boats all over Europe are up in arms as the text taken at face value could mean the introduction of log-books, registration of catches, authorisations of boats and fishing, paper work and licenses and limitation of access and catches.
News media all over Europe has brought stories about the contentious Art 47. More than 60 press reports have been issued in the UK alone, including two BBC broadcastings. A working group under the Council of Ministers with the attendance of the Commission negotiates the wording of the control regulation at weekly meetings. A process scheduled to run for 6 months or more. Art 47 was discussed fairly recently for the first time but to our knowledge nothing has as yet been set in stone.
Very little in the Commission’s proposed Article 47 is acceptable to EFTTA and the recreational angling sector at large. In fact EFTTA only supports unconditionally the provision, which bans sales of catches from recreational fisheries. EFTTA and EAA have lobbied the Commission intensively for clarification on a number of other points.
In the European Parliament an opinion report is pending. The Committee on Fisheries responsible for drafting the report adopted its version of an opinion last week (31 March) after having dealt with 290 amendments from committee members. The committee was pretty close to suggesting Art 47 was deleted altogether. 11 MEPs voted in favour with 16 against. The opinion report now goes to Plenary for a new round of amendments and final adoption on 24 April.
The fisheries committee’s revised version of Art 47 is a more angling friendly one. It exempts recreational angling taking place from shore and small boats. It limits the scope to be only about recreational fisheries on fish stocks under so-called “recovery plans”.
EFTTA’s CEO, Jean Claude Bel said: “It is a surprise – but a very welcome one – we have learnt that these limitations are Commissioner Joe Borg’s wishes too according to some statements he has made in public”.
The committee also changed “shall” to “may” in some places to stress that the committee would like to leave much for the Member States to decide and deal with themselves. Mr Bel continued: “We find this a wise thing to do as the Commission’s text can be criticized for not applying with the legal principle of proportionality. Also the committee’s inclusion of a recreational fisheries definition text is very welcomed. It fills a gap in the Commission’s proposed regulation, though the definition still could do with some fine tuning.”
If new amendments are adopted on 24 April the Parliaments’ final version of an Article 47 might be acceptable for EFTTA. Mr Bel said: “So far we have suggested a deletion of Article 47 altogether, but we do play along pro-actively to improve the wording to minimise the damage should the Ministers decide not to comply with this deletion.”
Unfortunately, the fisheries committee left untouched the Commission’s wish that recreational catches should be counted against national quota. This is a can of worms. Hopefully, the Parliament will turn around on that point on 24 April. More importantly the Ministers must avoid this counting against quota in their final version of the control regulation. Our worries on this issue are also shared by commercial fishermen in most countries, who naturally fear quotas taken from them. There are other and better ways to include the take from recreational fisheries in fish stock assesments and management.
However, the counting against quota can be justified under some special circumstances. For example, from this year tuna quotas are given to recreational fishermen in France and Spain, one per cent of the total quota. This scheme has the backing from the recreational fishermen, who fear – for good reasons – that the alternative would be no recreational fishing for tuna. The opinion text from the Parliament’s fisheries committee actually does introduce the needed flexibility on this point (concerning recovery stocks), which we would advise the Commission and Ministers to consider: “Member States may establish a share from such quota to be used exclusively for the purpose of that recreational fishery.”
The Parliament is only able to give an opinion. What really counts is what the Ministers ultimately decide.
UK fisheries minister, Huw Irranca-Davies, said recently that the proposals under Art 47 as they read now would be opposed by the UK Government because of its potential negative impact on recreational sea angling. “I do not believe the EU Commission has made the case to support them and we will continue to seek further clarification and amendments,”.
Danish fisheries minister Eva Kjer Hansen also commented on Art 47. “This seems out of proportion and might create an unfair burden for the recreational fisheries and the administration. We have to avoid the introduction of new bureaucratic rules and that’s something I’ll make clear to the Commission.”
Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for rural affairs, environment and fisheries Richard Lochhead said: “I can see no justification at present…there is a significant lack of evidence available as to what if any impact angling activities actually have. I propose, therefore, that significant research can be undertaken to assess the true scale and impact of angling activities. Whilst the overall aim should be to ensure that activities which contribute to stock mortality are accounted for, I am of the opinion that the current proposal is both bureaucratic and cumbersome.”
Ireland’s Fine Gael Tourism Spokesperson, Olivia Mitchell TD said: “Not only will tourism take a direct hit immediately but it will be irreparably damaged for the coming years. Due to the particular advantages we enjoy, ‘specialist tourism’ will play a major part in the future of tourism in Ireland and needs to be a growth area. However, instead of attracting sea anglers – a specialist area – these new proposals will turn them away….The EU proposals are a needless attack that will do nothing for sustainability while directly harming our tourism industry.”
“Recreational sea angling in Europe generates some 8-10 billion Euro every year in socio-economic value, supporting tens of thousands of jobs often in rural and remote areas with sparse economic activity and jobs”, said EFTTA’s CEO Jean Claude Bel. “The legislators should be aware and appreciate that experiences from the past and new reports show that during periods of economic recession people tend to turn to nearby nature for relaxation and leisure activities including recreational angling.
“Ill-thought out legislation working against that positive is not what is needed. I sincerely hope we’ll soon see more Ministers, regions and local communities take notice and raise their voices to request Article 47 being deleted or worded in a way with no harm done to recreational angling.”