THE EU fisheries chief, Joe Borg, has proposed scrapping fish quotas and instead telling vessels how many days they can spend fishing.
The radical change would help eliminate the hugely wasteful problem of discards as it would allow skippers to land all the fish they catch, he said.
Vessel owners could rent or sell their days at sea allowance, and this could help reduce the fleet, Mr Borg argues.
The European Commission is currently consulting industry on a complete revamp of the common fisheries policy.
Mr Borg said that using taxpayers’ money to scrap ships has failed.
“Could a market-based approach, based on transferable fishing rights, be the way to introduce a greater dose of economic sanity? It works in other places in the world such as New Zealand, so maybe it can also work for us. But this would require a radical shift in attitudes,” he said.
His proposals have been welcomed by Donegal MEP Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, a former fisheries minister and now a member of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.
“The commissioner has put everything on the table which is needed for the kind of radical reform that is essential for the industry. It is certainly worthy of consideration if it leads to a reduction in the shameful practice of discards,” he said.
Member states would continue to have rights to fish as they have now, based on their catches in the past. But this solution would not be suitable for all fisheries, the commissioner told the Fisheries Committee.
Mr Borg also proposed moving away from what he described as the micro-management of fisheries by the EU institutions towards more regional management.
The general framework of fisheries policy would continue to be decided by member states and the parliament but member states would then co-operate and agree how to implement the details in their respective regions.
“The result would be a policy which is more responsive to regional and local needs and realities and which could benefit from local expertise,” he said.
The industry, too, should be more closely involved in implementing policy and self-managing and, said Mr Borg, they could help develop solutions to problems and be more directly responsible for their actions.
Mr Gallagher said the commissioner’s suggestion that the EU’s fisheries should be managed on a more regional basis in future was an important one for Ireland.
“It would be important for Ireland for the EU to consider regionalisation because what suits the south of Greece might not be at all practical for Irish waters,” he said.
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