efa meps march 2018.jpg
Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Madam President, the management of EU fisheries is at an important juncture with key stocks in the North Sea and elsewhere in decline and the future of fishing and fish processing industries therefore under threat. So it is essential that the Commission gets it right, proposing a management system which ensures sustainable fisheries backed up by up-to- date independent and verifiable scientific evidence involving stakeholders and installing confidence in the system. However, as the first set of CFP reform proposals nears a conclusion, I find myself more cynical about the process and less optimistic about the future for Scotland's fishing-dependent communities than ever before. Why should this be so? Is a workable EU fisheries policy achievable? I have always believed that the only way to succeed in achieving the necessary balance between resource-harvesting and conservation, and to better encourage compliance with any management regime is to have a regime with which the stakeholders can have some faith. That is why I have welcomed the Commission's support for regional advisory councils as a step in the right direction, towards a much-needed new and better way of doing things. Actions, however, have to accompany words and I have been shocked by the attitude displayed by the Commission recently in relation to cod and other white fish quotas for next year. To announce the possible closure of the Scots fishing industry with the 'we know best' and 'it's all your own fault' statements attributed to Commissioner Fischler seems to fly in the face of the stated intention to involve stakeholders more. This 'tough guy' approach, presumably designed to make the actual outcome for next year seem relatively palatable, should have no place in a new CFP. The sad truth is that irreparable damage has been done by the Commission in the last six months to the Scottish confidence in Europe being capable of managing fisheries at all. With Mr Fischler's about-turn on deep-water management, followed by the insensitive presentation of the ICES advice on cod and its repercussions for Scotland, it is little wonder that conspiracy theories abound. Does Commissioner Fischler want to be remembered as the architect of a new and successful EU fisheries policy? Or the one who brought desolation to communities and destruction to a way of life? Sadly at this moment, he seems to me more likely to achieve the latter. I and the leadership of the Scottish fishing industry have played a constructive role, working with environmental organisations in the consultative process towards CFP reform. I would like to see the Commission and the Council taking due account of that and giving some return and not penalising the Scots for their efforts.