Coveney to lead crunch talks on EU fish policy

Crunch talks on a radical change in the EU’s decades-old failed fish policy will be led by Minister Simon Coveney in Brussels today.

The negotiations are at a make-or-break stage and if the minister fails to get the member states and the European Parliament to agree to the new rules, it could be two years before another opportunity arises.

“We will be moving heaven and Earth to get agreement to accommodate the concerns of both sides,” said Mr Coveney, as he prepared to head into a meeting to convince his fellow ministers to adopt new positions.

He is looking for a new mandate, bringing them closer to what the members of the European Parliament is demanding and, today, he will deliver the new mandate to MEPs.

“It would be a disaster for this to fall through now,” he said. “If there is a stalemate, the risk is it will not be done in the lifetime of this parliament and commission and would have to start all over again after the elections in 2014 — this would be a massive failure,” he said.

The Irish presidency will not have another opportunity after today.

Mr Coveney said he will concentrate his energies on getting through the new policy.

There are four main headings for the reform of the fish policy:

n The annual carve-up of fish catches between member states would be replaced by a scheme where the quota would be based on scientific evidence.

n End of discards where fishermen are forced to dump a catch they do not have a quota for in either quantity or species.

Discards will be banned. At times, they can be as high as 70% and the plan is to reduce to about 5% while the parliament wants it to be 0%.

nRegional decision making with regional advisory councils giving fishermen a greater say and with an overall supervision body.

n A new fleet management policy.

Mr Coveney said the member states and the parliament were very close to agreement on many issues but they needed some flexibility and “a bit of faith and trust” to close a deal.

More than 85% of the world’s fishing stocks have been pushed to, or over, their biological limits with 68% of EU commercial stocks over-fished.

Sustainable fishing, the minister said, could create up to 37,000 additional jobs — a 30% increase by 2022 as a result of the steps being taken now which could increase the fish stocks.


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