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Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, I would like to thank the rapporteur for his work on today's fisheries reports, both of which I am sure will receive the overwhelming acceptance of this House and both of which are extremely important in terms of protection and conservation of fishery resources. I welcome the Commission's updating of the regulation on the protection of juveniles. We all know that sustainable development is a learning process and we must be able to update and adapt existing legislation to protect our fish stocks. I have paid particular attention to scientific advice which indicates the requirement for the closure of fisheries for sand eels off the north-east coast of England and the east coast of Scotland. This does not just concern the maintenance of sand eel stocks themselves, but the preservation of the entire ecosystem in these localities. The low breeding rate of the kittiwake that Mr Busk referred to is of particular concern. I am also happy to note, as Mr Busk confirmed, that Denmark as a Member State principally concerned with sand eel fishery has accepted these measures. However, while these measures will hopefully contribute to improving the state of fishery resources, I am concerned that the Commission has not got it right in certain other areas: for example, in the recent report on the implementation of MAGPs and the drastic cuts that it calls for in some fleets which is of grave concern to Scots and other fishermen. I would like to ask the Commission if they have really looked at whether cutting fleet sizes actually improves the conservation of fisheries. I quote from the Commission's own document which says: "The Scientific, Technical and Economic
Committee for Fisheries found no evidence that stocks had, in general, deteriorated or improved since the adoption of MAGP4." Surely we must question the effectiveness of MAGPs as a conservation measure. The Commission also failed to take into account how fleet sizes are reduced. I call for a more thorough investigation by the Commission into this. In those states which have, on paper at least, been complying with MAGPs such as Spain and Portugal, what has happened to the vessels which are removed from the register? How many would be decommissioned? How many were scrapped? How many were sunk and so on? How many were simply transferred to another flag? How many vessels continue to fish either here in the Community or elsewhere under what is, in many cases, a flag of convenience? The Commission must get conservation measures right, but I am not convinced that MAGPs are the way to do that. They can be circumvented easily and they do not fully take into account national measures such as days at sea. How can the Commission reconcile this with the fact that its own report says, and I quote again: "It could be argued that a reduction in activity would have a more direct impact on the exploitation rates than a reduction in capacity." I hope that the Commission will review its position and not impose swingeing cuts on our fleets. In Scotland, the proposed cuts would cost hundreds of jobs in particularly fragile rural areas. The new proposals to cut fleets will, ironically, fall mainly on the Scottish pelagic fleet where MAGP targets have actually been met through control measures. I welcome today's reports on this agenda, but I hope the Commission will think again when it comes to the interrelation between fleet sizes and other conservation measures. We have got to get this right so that in the long run fish stocks in Europe are conserved, thereby ensuring the continuing viability of our fisheries communities.