Spanish tuna vessel. (Photo: La Moncloa - Gobierno de España)
Optimism by EU agreement on discards
Thursday, February 28, 2013, 02:30 (GMT + 9)
The head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Miguel Arias Cañete, was very pleased about the agreement reached in the Council of Ministers for Agriculture and Fisheries of the European Union (EU) on the discard ban under the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Spain reached consensus on its two most important proposals: a more flexible implementation timetable that allows its fleet to adapt without too much harm and with minimum percentage of exemptions.
The agreement was accepted by all the delegations except Sweden. Now it must be defended by the corresponding Irish Presidency at the European Parliament, which is the one with the power to decide on the CFP reform.
At the same time, Spain managed to make the Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, to undertake the implementation of a support system for those vessels that had been the most seriously affected by the changes.
The Fisheries Council proposed that the ban should be applied in stages: from 2014 for pelagic species, in 2015 in the Baltic Sea, in 2016 in waters of the northwest, southwest and North Sea and finally in 2017 in the Mediterranean.
In addition, an additional period of time will be offered for the fleets to adapt, with a transition period of three years to gradually comply with the standard.
Minister Arias Cañete is very optimistic, since he believes that the proposed schedule will allow time for the Spanish fleet to "improve the selectivity of its gear, to make changes in the vessels and even adapt to the changing mindset that implies fishing in a different way," Europa Press reported.
He also stressed that the ban on discards for species that are more important to Spain, such as hake, shall enter into force by 2016 and not in 2015 as planned, and from 2019, rather than 2018, for by-catches in the demersal fisheries, such as megrim and monkfish.
Another aim Spain has was to extend the authorised range of discards (de minimis rule). While Member States proposed to accept 5 per cent, Cañete managed to impose his position, which implies the expansion of the percentage by 9 per cent and to slowly decrease it to 7 per cent over a period of five years.
This period will begin only in 2019, with 9 per cent of authorised discards in the first two years, 8 per cent over the next two and 7 per cent in the fifth year.
Another measure that benefits the Spanish fleet is the possibility to transfer up to 10 per cent of the quota of a target species that has not been completed so as to cover part of discards.
Although the decision was almost unanimous, states like Germany, Denmark and Austria, would implement the ban more drastically, in a similar position to that of the European Parliament.
The proposal implying the acceptance of discard percentages was the reason why Sweden did not sign the agreement.
Commissioner Maria Damanaki said she understands the problems the fleets belonging to certain Member States will face and clarified that the adjustment will be made easier through the implementation of accompanying measures and with "enough money" to carry out changes, EFE agnecy reports.
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By Silvina Corniola