23 environmental NGOs and organisations representing fishers from France, Germany, the Netherlands,
and the UK filed a formal request to the European Anti Fraud Office, known as OLAF, to conduct an investigation
into whether fraud has occurred in relation to the Dutch electric trawl fishery.
23 organisations environnementales et représentants de pêcheurs de France, d’Allemagne, d’Irlande, des Pays-Bas et du Royaume‐Uni demandent à l’Office européen de lutte antifraude (OLAF) d’ouvrir une enquête sur la pêche électrique néerlandaise pour suspicion de fraude.
23 milieu-NGO’s en ‐organisaties namens vissers uit Frankrijk, Duitsland, Nederland en het Verenigd Koninkrijk een officieel verzoek ingediend bij het Europese Bureau voor Fraudebestrijding –OLAF– om een onderzoek te starten naar het vermoeden van fraude in de Nederlandse pulsvisserij.
23 organizacji ekologicznych i organizacji reprezentujących rybaków z Francji, Niemczech, Holandii i Wielkiej Brytanii złożyło formalny wniosek do Europejskiego Urzędu ds. Zwalczania Nadużyć Finansowych, w skrócie OLAF,
o wszczęcie dochodzenia w sprawie podejrzenia o nadużycia finansowe holenderskich rybaków poławiających prądem.
23 ONG ecologistas y organizaciones de pescadores de Francia, Alemania, Países Bajos, y el Reino Unido han presentado una petición formal a la Oficina Europea de lucha contra el Fraude, la OLAF, para que inicie una investigación ante la sospecha de fraude en la pesca eléctrica neerlandesa.
23 Umweltschutzorganisationen und Fischereiverbände aus Frankreich, Deutschland, den Niederlanden und dem
Vereinigten Königreich haben heute beim Europäischen Amt für Betrugsbekämpfung, kurz OLAF, einen förmlichen
Antrag auf Einleitung eines Ermittlungsverfahrens wegen des Verdachts auf Betrug in der niederländischen Elektrofischerei gestellt.
23 ONG e organizzazioni per la difesa dell’ambiente che rappresentano i pescatori della Francia, Germania, Paesi Bassi e Gran Bretagna hanno presentato una richiesta formale all’Ufficio Europeo per la Lotta Antifrode, conosciuto
come OLAF, affinché conduca un’indagine su una sospetta frode nella pesca elettrica olandese.
The Q&A section illustrates the determination of the Commission to update and reinforce the Control Regulation. Their reasoning, stated in the Q&A section is that “the current Fishery Control System reflects control strategies, methodologies and challenges of more than 10 years ago, and it is not equipped to effectively address current and future needs in terms of fisheries data and fleet control, to match the constant evolution of fishing practices and techniques. It also does not provide the necessary flexibility to take advantage of modern and more cost-effective control technologies and data exchange systems.
Last but not least, the current system does not effectively promote a culture of compliance and significant loopholes have emerged in the implementation of current enforcement rules, which warrant their revision………. An enforcement system with dissuasive, proportionate and effective sanctions is paramount to ensure that the CFP and its conservation measures are complied with”.
Strong stuff! So what will it mean to UK fishermen in general and the small scale fleet in particular?
It means that things are going to change, and change drastically.
In comes electronic reporting for ALL vessels, irrespective of size, vessel tracking will be mandatory, as will the need to report catches BEFORE landing.
Again, from the Proposal: “For the smaller vessels it is nowadays possible to use mobile and other type of tracking devices, which are affordable and easy to use. Also, all catches should be accounted for and reported electronically, irrespective of the vessel’s size and of the amount of fish caught.
Paper-based reporting will therefore be phased out and current derogations removed.
The proposal remains however, technologically neutral, insofar as it avoids prescribing the use of any specific technology. Specific applications will need to be tailored to the different needs and actors keeping in mind that interoperability is necessary.
All provisions will be in one single act: the Control Regulation. The enforcement system will allow fishermen to be treated equally across the EU, irrespective of the Member State where they operate or land”.
So we are all going to be treated equally across the EU although there is clearly going to be wriggle room for each member state to tailor their own systems. Good luck with that!
In a similar vein, the current derogation for not reporting catches of under 50kg will go [the EU reckons that this permits the landing of up to 350,000 tons of fish across the EU that go unreported!]. It does appear however that the current allowance for the sale of fish direct to private buyers will remain: [“Traceability rules do not apply in the case of small quantities of fishery products sold directly from fishing vessels to the consumers”]
New rules for the reporting of lost gear are proposed: “Reporting of the loss of fishing gears will be done through the so-called fishing logbook, which will be submitted electronically to the competent authorities. Since the loss of fishing gear can concern any category of fishing vessels, irrespective of its size, the reporting via the logbook will have to be done by all categories of vessels. All vessels will also have to carry on board the equipment necessary for the retrieval of lost gear”.
This element appears to introduce a requirement by the back door for the registration of how much gear a fisherman carries and sets, as well as how much is lost and recovered or otherwise, irrespective of whether it’s a trawl, longline, pot of net.
So just how much of a level playing field there will be remains to be seen, not just across member states but also within them, as it is clear that current ‘enforcement’ varies significantly depending on where you fish from.
And if you think the proposals are going to cause problems for and generate resistance from commercial fishermen, it is likely to be nothing like as vociferous as that that will come from the recreational sector who are going to be registered and licensed on the basis that: “There are an estimated 8 to 10 million recreational fishermen in the EU, but catches from recreational fisheries are today still largely unaccounted for because of lack of proper control measures”. Member states “……will be able to the collect reliable data on catches and practices”. And just who is going to monitor and enforce all these millions of anglers, scattered along the coastlines of Europe is also going to be a “challenge” if it is actually possible in the first place.
The list of serious infringements will be updated and doled out irrespective of the size of vessel or the amount of fish involved so on that basis, we can assume that it won’t matter if you have one fish over, or a thousand tons, the penalty will be the same?
Oh, and there will be CCTV on boats that have a specific level of discard risk.
These proposals, and they are only proposals at his stage, will generate huge concerns in relation to the clear aim of the Commission to get tough on compliance. Just how much of the technology will actually work remains to be seen. It will require a whole new system of electronic reporting structures that vitally will need to be able to talk to each other and to the central servers at local, national and EU levels and that is not something that is even available at present. The amount of data that will be flying through the ether will be enormous, especially when you consider the amount of commercial and recreational activity on any given day. Just who is going to have the time and resources to actually look at this level of information remains to be seen.
And will Brexit save UK fishers, commercial and recreational, from these new requirements? Don’t bet on it!
Please find below LIFE’s contribution on the way forward to tackle the main challenges faced by the sector in the year to come, including on how the levels of fishing effort and quotas are set according to the new Common Fisheries Policy and in relation to scientific advice about sustainable fishing.
During past months the members and staff of the Low Impact Fishers of Europehave been working hard to improve the environmental, economic and social framework within which the European small-scale fleet operates.
LIFEurges European and national institutions not to turn a blind eye on the complex situation affecting coastal communities throughout Europe, and is confident that the dedication and efforts of its members to improve the situation will be rewarded in the long run.
Historically, small scale fisheries, specifically vessels under 12 metres using non-towed gears, have been overlooked by the CFP, with the notable exception of the 12-mile zone derogation. This has meant that previous CFP’s have focussed on larger scale, mobile gear fisheries, that are more industrial in nature and intensive in their impact on the fish stocks and wider environment.
The specific characteristics of smaller scale low impact fishing operations, providing as they do solutions to current problems of overfishing and ecosystem impact, have tended to be overlooked at both national and EU level in fisheries policies and the implementation thereof.
In LIFE’s experience, Producer Organizations set up to distribute and manage quota have tended to alienate small
scale fishers, whilst catering to the needs of larger scale fishing operations. The use of historic catch records as the basis for allocating quota has restricted access of small scale fishers to quota species. In many sea areas, smaller scale fishing operations are increasingly reliant on non-quota species. This impacts on their profitability, as well as their ability to diversify and with the application of the landing obligation coming into force, in its currently understood form, will result in the forced closure of many small scale fishery enterprises due to their lack of quota for “choke” species. Unless these issues are addressed – restricted access to quota species and the consequent ‘choke species’ issue – the historic demise of small scale fisheries and the coastal communities they support is likely to continue.
Scientific Advice and Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY)
LIFE supports the adherence to scientific advice in setting quotas, and the setting of fishing levels in line with achieving MSY targets (Fmsy). However, we feel that greater attention should be given to including the wealth of local knowledge of small scale fishers in decision-taking, in combination with scientific knowledge so as to put scientific advice within a socio economic context. By doing so, this will ensure that we don’t “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, maintaining the current upward trend in stock levels but at the same time providing sufficient fishing opportunities to maintain and even improve the viability of Europe’s extensive small scale fleet.
Further, given the historic alienation of small scale fishing activities from the quota allocation processes, LIFEadvocates the use of positive discrimination and affirmative action to level the playing field with larger scale fishing interests as regards access for small scale fishers to quota and fishing areas.
In this regard, LIFE is disappointed that many of the provisions of Article 17 have been overlooked, particularly as regards the genuine use of criteria of an environmental, social and economic nature when allocating fishing quota, and the use of quota allocations to provide incentives to fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact.
Within the context of the Technical Measures Conservation Regulation proposal (COM (2016) 134), and the emerging Multiannual Plans (MAPs), LIFEwould like to see greater use being made of areas reserved exclusively for the use of small scale low impact fishing operations, trawl free zones, and the temporal closure of spawning and other areas where fish may concentrate during certain seasons and life cycle stages.
LIFEhas submitted its view on the Baltic Sea fish stocks’ TACs and accompanying measures following the ICES advice for 2017 to the BSAC and DG MARE services for the Baltic Sea. This is included as an annex below.
LIFE is extremely worried at the latest ICES advice for Western Baltic cod. A TAC of 917 tons would effectively mean a bankruptcy of many small-scale businesses, the backbone of coastal communities in most affected Member States. A multitude of reasons has led to this situation, including science shortfalls, long-term overfishing, the rise of recreational fishing, and ecosystem aspects. But it is crucially important to think outside the box and look for innovative longer-term solutions rather than haggling over the percentages of TAC reductions, which is bound to be very serious. LIFE calls for a recognition that just as we take utmost care for our most vulnerable fish stocks, we are obliged to take the utmost care for the most vulnerable fishers – the low impact small-scale fishers with no alternative whatsoever to fishing Western cod.
The situation calls for an array of measures to protect both the stock and the fishers directly dependent on it. These should include:
Enhanced spawning protection through total trawling closure in Subdivisions 22 and 23 in February and March (2 months);
A reallocation of quotas from trawl fleet to small-scale low impact fishers in the spirit of Article 17 of the Basic Regulation, at least until the stock clearly recovers;
Measures to minimize by-catch of undersize and small cod, as well as tightened discards control;
Stronger regulation of recreational fishing and raising their awareness on the Western cod situation;
Taking targeted measures to reduce impact from increased seal population; and
Smart use of EMFF funds to offset the tough effects of these measures.
North Sea, North East Atlantic, Iberian Atlantic and Bay of Biscay
For LIFEMembers operating in these sea areas, one of the main issues of concern is access to quota species and the potential impact of the landings obligation in this regard.
A further concern relates to the situation of the bass stocks, and the ICES advice for zero catch levels (commercial and recreational fisheries) in 2017 based on a precautionary approach.
The livelihoods of many LIFE members using hook and line are critically dependent on access to bass stocks. A complete fishery closure would mean bankruptcy for these small scale enterprises.
Observations from LIFE members in relevant member states on the availability of bass are contradictory. Along the French Atlantic coast, fishers using hook and line report a general absence of bass, both North and South of the 48th
for catches of a variety of year classes, although the fishing has declined recently in some areas, whilst in the North Sea, many of the UK bass fishers have moved to potting for whelks. Dutch hook and line fishers report having had a poor year, although they have seen very significant shoals of juvenile Bass. The North Sea and eastern Channel fishers have reported large concentrations of undersized sea bass, raising very significant concerns that these shoals will be decimated by active gears such as those used by the very large Dutch fly shooters utilizing relatively small mesh nets.
With regard to this particular activity, we also highlight the concerns expressed by LIFE Members on the western coast of Denmark where the traditional ropes used by large fly shooting vessels have been replaced by steel wires. This, together with the very powerful engines used by these vessels is result
ing in the laying waste of the seabed by cutting off the limestone nodules that have provided effective protection for juveniles for decades. Prompt action now, and especially within the technical regulations would prevent any further damage being done to the long term sustainability of currently viable fisheries and the stocks on which they rely. This is an opportunity to reverse an approach that has almost inevitably resulted in only acting when a stock of fishery has already suffered degradation and the means of revitalising it are significantly more painful than if the problem had been addressed at the outset.
The fishery crisis in the Mediterranean Sea is of great concern toLIFE Members, where they consider that the intensive use of trawls in sensitive inshore areas has had a major impact on both fish stocks and the supporting environment. They consider that there is a need to establish extensive trawl free areas in designated coastal waters which are sensitive habitats, and reproductive and nursery areas for many species.
At the same time, it is clear that it would be wrong to lay the blame for all the ills of the Mediterranean exclusively at the feet of mobile gear operators. There is a fast growing recognition by smaller scale fishers that the Mediterranean is in dire need of an overarching and robust management plan that takes the impact of all gears into account, not just that of heavier mobile methods and that the responsibility for the rejuvenation of Mediterranean fisheries is the responsibility of all concerned and not just a single sector.
LIFE Members welcome the reported recovery of Bluefin tuna stocks in the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea, and the proposal of the European Parliament “to distribute national quotas fairly among the various fleet segments giving consideration to traditional and artisanal fisheries, and to provide incentives to Union fishing vessels deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact.”
LIFE fervently hopes that this statement reflects the recognition by decision makers at all levels of the need to provide real and meaningful support to the 80% of the European Union fleet that is deemed to be small in scale but large in social, economic and environmental benefits if managed effectively.
Annex 1: LIFE comments on Baltic Sea fish stocks’ TACs
and accompanying measures following the ICES advice for 2017
Eastern cod and relation to pelagic species
LIFE is strongly concerned about the continued lack of analytical assessment of this stock by ICES, in spite of numerous efforts to this end. The lack of larger cod individuals and reliance on small number of incoming year classes increase risks ahead of this key Baltic Sea stock.
Furthermore, ICES points to increasing discard rate, which is most probably higher than 15%. LIFE Members’ observations confirm the information available to ICES that “modification of selectivity properties” does take place at large scale in demersal trawl fishery.
The condition of cod individuals has improved a little, but it is still much worse than long-term average; this must not be used as an excuse for complacency. There is no single cause of this phenomenon. However, LIFE Members point to a root cause of continued cod food deprivation, especially for 3 to 4-year-old cod, which should mainly feed on sprat in normal conditions. In LIFE’s view, it is because forage fish is simply not available, due to excessive effort exerted on pelagic species, particularly sprat in Subdivisions 25 and 26. ICES advice is quite clear on this.
The situation described above calls for a moderate TAC decrease, in view of increased risks for the stock. It is, however, immensely more important for decision-makers to adopt without delay measures leading towards:
Much better food availability for 3 to 4-year-old and older cod individuals;
Significant and strong decrease of discards. They are a disgrace to the region hitherto seen as example for the rest of Europe to follow.
Small-scale fishers of the Baltic Sea can ill-afford a repetition of the situation of Western cod stock in the East.
LIFE considers that, in a situation of cod food deprivation in Central Baltic and on the basis of just one strong year class, the TAC increase suggested by ICES should not be followed. We hope that decision-makers shall act moderately here to avoid steep sprat TAC decreases in the future. LIFE recommends a rollover of the TAC with a robust spatial management plan to move large-scale pelagic effort away from SDs 25 and 26 and leave the sprat as prey for hungry cod, as advised by ICES.
Central Basin Herring
LIFE feels it necessary to bring to the table a worrying anecdotal evidence provided by one of our Members: some fishers specialized in herring for bait, operating in southern Swedish waters, have pointed out to very bad situation of herring in their area, with i.e. the fish growing very thin. This has resulted in some bait-specialized boats going out of business this year.
Impact of seal predation
LIFE calls upon ICES to take full account of the extent of fish mortality caused by the huge increase in seal population over the last decade. This is particularly important for the assessment of cod and salmon stocks. Furthermore, environmental organizations, as well as the relevant EU and national authorities, need to re-think their seal conservation policies to ensure that the balance in Baltic Sea ecosystem is kept.
The monthly newsletter of the Low Impact Small-Scale Fishers of Europe
MAIN EVENTS OF THE MONTH
Meeting with stakeholders of the Northern Seas in Denmark
LIFE and representatives of two member organizations, FSK. Foreningen for Skånsomt Kystfiskeri and NUTFA, attended the two days event “Slow Fish of the Northern Seas” that took place in Denmark from the 8th to 10th of April. The meeting, organized by Slow Fish and hosted by the fishing community of Thorupstrand, has been the occasion to visit their landing site and processing facilities, to exchange best practices and to carry out a multi-disciplinary reflection among fishermen, producers, researchers and not-for profits on several topics of particular relevance for the Northern Seas, including aquaculture, community-led initiatives, market space and resource management.
The gathering has been the starting point for a broader collective work of networking and engagement that will be developed in the months to come with fishing communities and stakeholders in the framework of the event Terra Madre which will be held in Turin in September 2016.
LIFE becomes member of the Mediterranean Advisory Council
LIFE’s application to become an official member of the MedAC. The MedAC is the committee bringing together European and national organizations representing the fisheries and NGO sectors, providing the Commission and EU countries with recommendations on fisheries management matters. With this seat the low impact fishers of the Med countries will be better able to get their voice heard at the decision-making process level and to influence the policies that define the management of the sector in the Region.
LIFE invited by the European Commission at the launch of the new Mediterranean Strategy
On the 27thLIFE attended the launch of the new Mediterranean strategy by Commissioner Karmenu Vella at Europe’s biggest industry event, the Seafood Global Expo in Brussels. The Mediterranean Sea still laments declining fisheries despite the conservation efforts of both regulators and fishermen. For this reason, the European Commission, concerned with what this could mean for thousands of fishermen, has decided to focus its next political campaign on the Region.
Christian Decugis, LIFE Director for the Med, was interviewed by the official journalists of the event and recalled the vital role played by SSCFs, their historical commitment to sustainable fishing practices and the need for a more inclusive decision-making process !
OTHER NEWS FROM AROUND THE EU
LIFE attended the event opened by EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella “Delivering Innovation in the Blue Economy: Launch of the Blue Growth calls under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund” held in Brussels on the 5th. The event focused on new calls for proposal making € 7,5 Million available for investments. It was an occasion for LIFE to look at new funding opportunities for its members, to establish new contacts with potential partners at local and regional level and to call for greater attention to be paid to artisanal fisheries within the framework of Blue Growth.
On the 18thLIFE’s Executive Director Jeremy Percy was interviewed by BBC Radio to discuss the current situation for the UK small-scale fleet within the context of local elections and the UK’s forthcoming referendum on EU membership and to explain the latest developments in terms of national and European management policies and how these will affect the UK and European artisanal fleet in the near future.
That same day, LIFE Coordinator, Laura Calinoiu was an invited member of the jury for the gastronomic contest organized by SeaWeb with Chef Olivier Roellinger (French 3* Michelin) held in Paris (France). The contest, aimed at raising awareness among young chefs on the preservation of marine resources and the use of fresh and sustainable fish, was attended by various stakeholders, including fishmongers, chefs, NGOs, scientists, and EU institution representatives. Two days after, another phase of the competition took place in Somonino, Poland, and two representatives of LIFE member association Srodkowopomorska attended as member of the jury.
LIFE Executive Director, on the 19th had a virtual meeting with academic researchers investigating changes in fisheries management within a devolved administration context.
On the 19th the PECH Committee of the European Parliament organized the hearing «Mediterranean Sea: state of the fishing stock and strategies to adopt for the conservation and socio-economic situation of the fisheries sector». During most of the event, a number of speakers, MEPs and stakeholders recognized the importance of the artisanal fleet for coastal communities. LIFE staff have been satisfied by the growing recognition within the sector of the importance and value of small-scale fisheries and by the interest shown by the Commission and European Parliament in LIFE as the platform representing the voice of small-scale fishers.
21st – Discard Action Group – London. The Executive Director, together with the Chairman of NUTFA, attended the Seafish facilitated Discard Action Group to contribute to the debate regarding the evolution of the landings obligation and its possible outcomes.
LIFE meets Asia: on the 26th LIFE met with a Japanese delegation of social entrepreneurs that are restoring the area of Tohoku after the tsunami. The meeting was an opportunity to present LIFE as a model of a European platform, to exchange best practices and to explain the strategies carried out to engage on community building, fisheries and gastronomy.
In parallel with the Japanese meeting, LIFE’s Executive Director, along with Greenpeace’s senior Oceans Campaigner met with Baroness Bryony Worthington (European director of the Environmental Defense Fund) in the House of Lords in London. The Director raised ongoing concerns regarding EDF’s rights based management [catch shares] approach that has been shown to do significant damage to the fabric and socio economic sustainability of many coastal communities.
The meeting above was followed up on the 28th with a virtual meeting with the New Economics Foundation who are also working on issues in relation to the threats posed by a specifically rights based management approach.
On 28th the Executive Director also met with Succourfish, a leading UK based technical company specialising in Inshore vessel monitoring systems, data collection and catch reporting hard and software. LIFE is actively pursuing and promoting improvements in these areas for the benefit of members and the wider fleet across Europe.
29th The Executive Director had a virtual meeting on leadership values with respect to coastal fishery representation with academic researchers.
That same day he met with Young’s Seafood to discuss a more collective approach towards developments related to improved selectivity of fishing gears and reducing discards in line with European requirements.
NEWS FROM OUR MEMBERS
NetVISwerk elects a new Chairperson
The organization of Dutch and Belgian small scale coastal and inland fishers NetVISwerk has chosen a new chairperson: Albert Jan Maat. He has been chairman of the National Farmers Union and served in the European Parliament as rapporteur for the Eel Management Plan. With Albert Jan on board, NetVISwerk will increase its National and European network and will work closely with the Dutch Farmers Union in Brussels. The two Dutch organisations are already cooperating on the issue of listing European Invasive Alien Species and the Farmers Union is very much willing to team-up with LIFE in supporting small scale fishers in Europe.
The French Platform makes noise in the press
On the 12th of April the French Platform PPPAF (Plateforme de la Petite Pêche Artisanale Française) issued a press release to voice their concerns about how fisheries are managed in France. The article, published on the specialist French newspaper Le Marin ( http://goo.gl/G3nsWm ) , highlights the administrative burden to practice the profession and the opaque allocation of quota and management mechanisms of POs. The PPPAF is not asking for a total exemption of small-scale fishing, just for appropriate management measures.
WELCOME ON BOARD!
In addition to the members who joined since the beginning of 2016, the following organisations officially became part of LIFE this month:
Union des Communautés des Prud’hommes Pêcheurs Méditerranéens (UCPPM – France)
Fishing Prud’homies are communities of artisanal fishers who were born on the Mediterranean Coast of France back in the Middle Ages and that in time developed autonomous systems of regulation and management of local fisheries. UCPPM, created in 2015, is the official association representing the voice of 300 Prud’hommesfishers (for 250 under 10 meters’ boats) and among its objectives are the promotion sustainable fishing practices and developing policies which are more appropriate for the local fleet and coastal environment. Welcome to LIFE!
Asociación para la defensa de la pesca artesanal del Mediterráneo (ADPAM – Spain)
ADPAM is an association created in 2008 to represent the artisanal fishing communities of Spain, with a special focus on the Province of Castellὸn and Catalunya, on the Mediterranean Coast. Today it represents 40 fishers (for 40 boats) and has among its priorities the development of European policies that can ensure a sustainable management of Mediterranean stocks. LIFE is delighted to welcome ADPAM as an active member from the Med Region!
This newsletter is a simple snapshot of our external activities. In addition, the LIFE staff in the UK, Brussels and Spain respond to a vast range of queries related to our sector and continuously develop and promulgate policies related to small scale, low impact fishing and fisheries.
Our Regional Directors, all working small scale fishers also promote the values and benefits of coastal fishing.
Would you like some additional information on a specific event, project or initiative? Don’t hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org , or follow us on Facebook ( Low Impact Fishers of Europe ) or on Twitter (@LIFEplatformEU )
France, like many EU Member States, has administrative and management systems that are ill suited to the needs of the small scale fisheries sector. Despite much promise, two years on, the implementation of the CFP has so far failed to deliver tangible benefits for fishers who have chosen to fish ways that limit their impacts on the environment, who want to combine traditional small scale fishing ways with modern technology and decent working conditions, and who want to support the local communities in which they are rooted.
Despite the lack of delivery to date, LIFE is optimistic that Article 17 does provide the possibility to reward those who fish sustainably, so long as the political will is there to apply its provisions in the spirit as well as in the letter of the law.
The authors of the article below speak not only for themselves and for the French Platform for Small Scale Artisanal Fisheries, but for small scale fishers across Europe who share their worries and frustrations. Their concerns are very much our concerns.
The French Platform of Small Scale Artisanal Fisheries, a founder member of LIFE, represents fishermen from the French Atlantic facing coasts and from the Mediterranean. The Platform was launched in June 2012 by a group of associations representing 500 fishers.
The Platform was set up to defend the under 12 metre fleet segment that uses predominantly passive fishing methods. Despite the importance of this fleet segment, it is often marginalised, treated unfairly, not given proper consideration by the authorities, and not given sufficient space within professional organizations.
The aim of the Platform is not to fight against vessels over 12 meters. The complementarity of small scale and large scale activities is recognized and respected by the Platform, which considers that fleet diversity is important for the economic and social wellbeing of both fishing harbours and the sector as a whole.
Of course there are points of contention, and we may disagree on a number of issues. However, like the Platform, LIFE contends that the management of small scale fisheries require a differentiated approach, and that measures are needed to ensure that a balance is maintained between small-scale fishing and other fleet segments, and the small scale low impact segment can thrive.
LIFE identifies with, and wholeheartedly embraces these objectives and views.
In France, as in other European countries, there are many hurdles to setting up as a small scale owner operator. First of all, it is necessary to obtain the PME (Fishing Vessel License). Then a plethora of permits must be obtained, including AEP (European Fishing License), licenses for gears, and licenses for different species like bass, shellfish, sole etc. For bass, no more licenses are available for fishers using hooks, despite this being the most responsible fishing method as far as the resource and the marine environment are concerned, and on which hundreds of fishers depend. Their contribution to the overexploitation of the species is minute compared to the pelagic trawl fleet, where the number of licenses has remained unchanged.
And then there’s the painful question of quotas; a management tool much feared – and with reason – by small scale fishers. It is applied through a mechanism – based on catch history – that is deeply unfair. It rewards those who fish the most, whilst overlooking those who practice low impact fishing.
LIFE and the French Platform both denounce the current distribution system of quotas and its many perverse effects. Last December in France, the Competition Authority raised concerns on how quota is distributed among fishermen, the anti-competitive nature of the practices, the opaque allocation and management mechanisms, particularly in the POs (Producer Organizations).
The quota allocation system for Bluefin tuna graphically illustrates these concerns, with almost all the quota allowances reserved for purse seiners, pelagic trawlers or large longliners. This system should be fully reviewed in order to establish a distribution system based on environmental, social and economic criteria, as set out in Article 17 of the reformed CFP.
Some EU regulations include special provisions that favour small boats, by exempting them from certain fishing authorizations. However, in the case of access to cod in some areas, the exemption for vessels under 10 metres has been overturned by the professional organizations. Instead they have imposed a European Vessel Licence (AEP) on vessels under 10 meters, which penalizes them heavily. The French Platform also strongly objects to the unequal charges levied on small boats compared to large boats. Our sector is the main contributor, but not the primary beneficiary.
Then there is the administrative straitjacket, where bureaucratic requirements are not at all adapted to the constraints of small-scale fisheries. These include safety requirements, the need for life-rafts, the system for weighing the landings, manning levels, direct sales, and so on. It’s a real burden for small scale owner operators.
We are not asking for the exemption of small fishing from all management measures. However, we denounce a management system that is inappropriate. We depend on the areas where we fish – our fishing territories. We need to target the species found in our immediate vicinity, distributing our effort, based on a logic that is not to maximize profit.
It’s a philosophy and a socioeconomic model that the current system constantly undermines. There is nothing more absurd for us than having to avoid catching bluefin tuna that abounds all around us, or to discard it dead, and then having to travel great distances to find fish that we are allowed to catch.
Our critics contend that “if we followed your demands, then the coastal zone would simply fill up with vessels”. But we already find large ships on the coast, notably supertrawlers, other trawlers and 24 metre longliners, which thanks to derogations can operate within the 3-mile zone. All we are asking is that the maritime space be shared amongst vessels according to their size, and for the rules applied to be respected and strictly controlled. Our small vessels will never go far out enough to compete with vessels of 20 or 25 meters.
Similarly, we continually hear officials congratulating themselves on the sound state of stocks. But which stocks they talking about? Bass? Red seabream? Black bream? All these species are far from well managed. Many fishers will tell you how red seabream was decimated by high opening trawls, and how black bream has virtually disappeared in some places because of pelagic trawling. We call for a comprehensive scientific assessment, but are under no illusions that this will happen any time soon.
In the Mediterranean, too, there is an urgent need for progress to be made to improve the state of resources. But when addressing the problem, sports fishing (which is totally unregulated), pollution and coastal urbanization must also be factored in. Better recognition of the roles of prudhommies, ancient secular management bodies, should also be included in the equation. It is by strengthening theses indispensable institutions that we can make progress in fisheries management in the Mediterranean.
We had placed certain hopes in the new CFP, particularly concerning the provisions of Article 17. This article requires Member States to allocate quota using transparent and objective criteria, and to favour fishing vessels “deploying selective fishing gear or using fishing techniques with reduced environmental impact, such as reduced energy consumption or habitat damage.”
But where are these famous criteria that each state is supposed to define and implement? We fear that Danish seines and electric trawls may be the ones to eventually benefit from the misapplication of these environmental and social criteria.