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To the EU Ministers’ Council for fishery

Subject: “Information from Danish fishery as background knowledge for the fishery negotiations in Brussels on December 19-December 21/12 2006”

Dear Madame/Sir

With this information sheet, we would like to draw your attention to the following factual, and – for the coastal fishery – very problematic states of affairs in Danish fishery.

On Friday the 15th of December 2006, the Danish minister of fishery received his mandate from the Danish parliament for the fishery negotiations in the EU, but with a majority secured only by the Danish People’s Party. All other parties were against.

Of course there are other and very important issues on the agenda on the meeting to be held this week, but with regards to the coastal fishery, the most important issue is, without any doubt, the suggestion from the commission that all cod fish from the North Sea can only be landed as by-catch in 2007.

Such a rule will have little or no significance to the major trawlers, netters and seines catching at open sea, since they already land cod fish only as by-catches. But it will have catastrophic impact to the smaller coastal fishermen. They catch the respective species, when they approach the coast line, which happens at different times in the year. When the North Atlantic cod fish comes near the coast line during the winter, there are very few other species to catch near the coast, which means that the fishermen on the Danish West coast will not be able to catch cod fish as by-catch.

Dear ministers, please just try to imagine that the Norwegian government were to propose such a regulation! It is inconceivable, because it would automatically mean the end of Norwegian coastal fishery – which it would be political suicide for anyone to be responsible of in Norway.

In the EU, on the other hand, it is possible, and this is most probably because the coastal fishermen already represent a relatively small group without any significant political attention. But it must be made very clear: As ministers of the EU, you must, you have to look beyond this. You have obligations towards the coastal fishermen, and they have justified expectations to your responsible and reasonable decision making.

The Danish minister will now come to Brussels with a mandate, which allows him to negotiate in such a way that he ends up by “accepting” the suggestion of the commission about allowing cod fish only as by-catches. But this situation must be seen in the right context in order to be properly understood.

The mandate, he brings with him, he has not received from the people of Denmark, but only from the Danish Fishermen’s Association, and only with the support from the Danish People’s Party.

These facts are inseparably connected to the earlier fact that these three agents together have carried through the capitalization of the fish quotas in Denmark, which has meant that the major vessels and companies – in 2006 – have bought the smaller and middle sized vessels at a rapid pace in order to take over their quotas.

On the island of Bornholm, e.g., the biggest harbour is Nexø. In Nexø, there were 70 vessels only a few years ago, but at the end of this year, there are only some 20 vessels left. Half of the vessels sold have been sold this year, and they have been sold to the big trawlers from the West Coast, resulting in Bornholm now losing an important and historical trade, which again means that the island will be in need of increased subsidies, including from the EU.

The mandate of the Danish minister contains a demand that he must use all means necessary to avoid reducing the number of days at sea for the major trawlers. This demand will entail that – if necessary – he must sacrifice the coastal fishery through a compromise, where the ministers’ council accept a new regulation through by-catches, if the commission will be ready to drop or soften its suggestion about significantly reducing the number of days at sea.

Living Sea does not try to hide the fact that our sympathy and work is on the side of the coastal fishery. This is so for a number of reasons, which we have unfolded and described during the past decade. However, we also struggle for the marine environment and a sustainable management of the fisheries. And we have to emphasize that the only road towards increased sustainability in fishery is a significant reduction of the fishing efforts, i.e. the time the trawlers have their trawls in the sea.

Reducing the number of days at sea therefore gives more substance to a restoration plan for cod fish than does the suggested regulation through by-catches. In the Danish fishery, we will be able to document that cod as by-catch regulation will not save a single cod fish, since the actual catches of cod are many times bigger than the legally landed amount.

The political mandate, which the Danish minister brings with him to the coming negotiations, has nothing to do with a restoration plan for cod fish. It is entirely a logical consequence of the political agreement, which the Danish government has made with the Danish People’s Party. This agreement has concentrated and continues to concentrate the quotas on less and less major vessels. And these big vessels can not live with fewer days at sea. They can, however, live with cod as by-catch regulation, since cod fish is already today a by-catch in their fisheries.

The price will be paid by the small scale coastal fishery, which is already under heavy pressure.

We ask you strongly to protect the costal fishery living from the Atlantic Cod. If you agree on the commission’s by-catch proposal, you have to keep the costal fishery out of this new regulation. 

For more information, please contact:

Chairman of Living Sea

Kurt Bertelsen Christensen

+ 45 9789 4555 el. + 45 2048 7421




Living Sea is an unpolitical Danish society, established in 1995, with the purpose of uniting interests around a more ecologically sustainable exploitation of the sea and its resources.







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