CALL FOR ACTION TO BRING FISH BACK TO OUR SEAS

13th May 2011

A campaign to boost the number of fish in our seas has been backed by local politician Stephen Hughes MEP.

The Labour member of the European Parliament has put his name to formal declaration that calls for a major overhaul of the way European countries manage fish stocks.

The declaration has been put forward by a cross-party campaign group that is fighting for changes to increase fish stocks and secure a better deal for local fishermen.

The group wants to see a comprehensive reform of EU fishing policy – known as the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) - when it is renegotiated in 2012.

Stephen Hughes said: "It's clear that the current policy simply isn't working and the number of fish in our seas has seriously declined.

"People have been rightly outraged by the huge wastage that results from current fishing rules.

"This is an issue that has received a high profile over recent weeks, and we're now entering the critical period in which we should be applying pressure to push for reform.

"We need changes that will help rebuild fish stocks and secure the long term future of fishing in the North East. The status quo simply isn't an option."

EU fishing rules have been subject of a high profile campaign by Channel 4 and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Over 650,000 people have backed the Fish Fight campaign, with the issue subject to debate in both the European and Westminster parliaments.

Particular concern has been raised about the issue of discards: fish that are caught but would take a fishing vessel over its quota and therefore have to be thrown overboard, even though they are already dead.

EU Fisheries chief Maria Damanaki has already announced that she wants a science-led approach and aims to ban the wasteful practice of discarding fish. Proposals are likely to include the transfer of fisheries management from Brussels to regional organisations involving local fishermen, food companies and environmentalists.

But Stephen Hughes warns that the reforms are likely to face tough political opposition: "We must keep up the pressure for reform. Despite the right noises coming from Brussels, there is no place for complacency."

ENDS

NOTES FOR EDITORS

The Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is critical for fish stocks and the fishing industry in that it determines how much fish can be caught of each species of fish across the North Atlantic and North Sea.  Due to pressure on particular species of fish, the CFP introduced quotas for the numbers of each species that can be caught by each fishing vessel.  The number of days fishermen are allowed to go to sea is also controlled.

Stephen Hughes believes the right EU fishing policy can protect and increase fish stocks, and provide a better living for fishermen.  But reform is needed to achieve this as the current system simply isn’t working.

The final decision on a new fishing policy will need to be taken next year.