"The Hirtshals declaration"

                       From the conference "EU and the Fishery" 13 - 15. December 2002





Fishermen are the last of the hunters.

The fish however, are disappearing, because we no longer respect the basic rules for hunting and the exploitation of nature. Fishing as a life form and a trade has always been governed by the biology and behaviour of the fish. Fish and nature have always decided the balance and rhythm of any fishery.

This balance has been thrown over board by the industrialization of modern fishing, which is taking place everywhere and at all times, no matter the weather conditions or the characteristic of the fishing ground. The fish are pursued even amongst the rocks and wrecks, which only recently gave them shelter and protection. The consequences have been dramatic: Before the advent of industrialized fishing, everyone was convinced that it was impossible to empty the sea. Today, industrialized fishing has shown that this is not so.

For 10 years, the EU has worked on developing a thorough fishery reform, which was supposed to put an end to the destruction, which over-fishing has caused in our common seas, and in 2002 the reform should be completed.

Now however, it has become alarmingly clear that those who started the task 10 years ago, and those who followed, have not been able to solve it. They have not understood the reality, which governs the sea, and the fishery has therefore merely been allowed to continue on the same destructive course, which has led to the current situation.

The authorities and the major fishery associations haven’t been able to take the responsibility for the fishery, and therefore we have to encourage the European population to understand and defend good fishing practices. We encourage everyone to use their political influence to further and develop an ecologically sustainable fishery – a fishery which is real, in the sense that it can sustain itself as a balanced hunt and harvest in accordance with the natural conditions, without damaging the stocks or the marine environment. This fishery (still) exists and is ready to take its position as the real link between humans and sea. It is economically reasonable, it maintains the virility and cultural importance of the coastal community, and it provides fish of high quality. At the same time therefore, we should encourage the population to accept that the necessary funds be earmarked for helping fishermen to change to fishing methods which live up to the aims of this declaration.

Since the industrialization of fishing has led to the development of destructive forms of fishing, and since the EU has committed itself to furthering the ecologically sustainable fishery, we declare the following:

- That the hunting and catching of fish is a historic right – a natural human right.

- That all fishing should be conducted on an ecologically sustainable basis.

- That fishery administration should be carried out in a manner such as to secure the future generations of wild fish, and to create a viable and diversified fishing industry.

Nothing in this declaration should be interpreted as entitling any state, group or individual to carry out an enterprise or act, which violates the fundamental right of humans to conduct a fishery and to exploit the marine resource.