Belgium. Jo Borg speaks at meeting with Panhellenic Union of Middle-Range Fisheries Ship-owners

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Mr Chairman, Honourable Members of the Fisheries Committee, Convenors, Participants,

I would like first of all to thank Mr Ioannis Gklavakis and the Panhelleninc Union of Middle-Range Fisheries Shipowners for having organised this meeting and for giving me an opportunity to talk with you all so soon after the adoption of the Mediterranean Regulation at the last Fisheries Council of 20-21 November.

After some difficult, though very fruitful, discussions with fishermen’s associations and other stakeholders, with the European Parliament and the Member States, under no less than four Council Presidencies, we have finally reached a compromise. I believe that the result is an excellent example of effective and responsible fisheries management, achieving a good balance between the social dimension and conservation needs.

In recent years it has become clear that a purely national approach to fisheries management in the Mediterranean is no longer viable.

The single market in the Union, the move towards a Mediterranean free trade area through the Barcelona Process, the substantial number of shared and straddling stocks, and the open-access fishable grounds in international waters in the Mediterranean, all call for a renewed approach to fisheries management in the region. All Mediterranean Parties, and primarily the Community and its Member States, need to undertake sustainable fisheries while creating conditions for a level playing field between fishermen of different Mediterranean countries.

Moreover, we cannot ignore the growing debate on the poor state of marine resources around the globe, including the Mediterranean, and the increasing allegations of fisheries mismanagement. We should all be concerned about this if we want to defend the interests of our fishermen while preserving the fish stocks and the marine environment which constitute the foundation for their work.

Honourable Members,

I believe that the new Regulation forms the basis to respond to all these challenges that the Mediterranean is facing today. Properly implemented and enforced, it will allow us to achieve the main goals of increasing productivity to former levels, while protecting biodiversity, habitats and small scale coastal fisheries, which I understand are of particular importance for your country.

All this is thanks to the hard work that we have accomplished under the guidance of several Presidencies and to the valuable input from the European Parliament. To this end, I have to say that most of the amendments agreed with Parliament have passed through Council with, of course, the necessary updating dates due to the postponement in the adoption of the regulation.

Let me recall the main elements of the Regulation:

1) One of the pillars is the selectivity of towed nets. From 1 July 2008 these are expected to change from 40mm diamond mesh to either the new mesh size of 40mm square or the 50mm diamond mesh, with the exception of those targeting sardines and anchovy.

2) Another important feature is the protection of most coastal waters from the use of certain active gear, such as trawlers and purse seiners. This is vital for an effective protection of sensitive habitats and nursery grounds. But it is also of primary importance to maintain equilibrium between small scale fisheries and the larger vessels. I am well aware that this measure created a lot of concern to the associates of your organisation and some Honourable Members of Parliament, but I believe that the solution found is a good and viable compromise which keeps the general rule - 1.5 nautical miles off the coast irrespective of the depth for trawlers, and 300 metres off the coast and 50 metres of depth for purse seiners - while allowing, by way of derogation, for an adjustment of these rules to local geographic specificities, under certain conditions.

As for the trawlers, the minimum distance off the coast for the application of these derogations will be 0.7 miles, provided that sea-depth is no less than 50 metres. I understand that this measure is less restrictive than that currently enforced in Greek waters, where 1 nautical mile is the minimum distance from the coast for trawlers.

3) Purse seines may be used until the end of 2007 at depths of 30 metres. After that date the Regulation allows for possible derogations to the general rule of 50m depth, in well justified cases and under management plans.

4) Certain traditional gear that has been used under a derogatory regime for the past few years can continue operating with current mesh size and according to the national regime, until the end of May 2010. This is the case with the Greek boat seines "vitzotrata" operating very close to the coastline from October to March. After May 2010 they may continue to operate with the new mesh size of 40mm square or 50mm diamond, provided that a national management plan is established by then.

Mr Chairman,

Concluding my speech, I would like to emphasise that with the adoption of the Regulation, we have only achieved a first, but a fundamental, step.

The second phase is starting now, establishing Community and national management plans that will allow us to move from a reactive "wait and see" approach to fisheries management to an adaptive and long-term approach in line with the 2002 reform of the CFP. This approach needs the proactive contributions of all concerned, primarily the fishermen’s associations and the scientific community.

Fisheries management needs to be built on a solid scientific basis, including better knowledge of fisheries and of their economics. To this end I believe that the Community data collection programme will help this to progress and will strengthen the contribution that the Mediterranean scientific community provides both within the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries of the Community and the Scientific Advisory Committee of the FAO General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean.

Thank you.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 November 2006 )