WWF hearing on the EU fishery reform, Nyborg 9.9.2002


speech by chairman of Living Sea, skipper Gunnar Jacobsen 





At first I want to thank the World Wildlife Foundation for inviting Living Sea to give a contribution for this hearing.

Living Sea is an environmental society, founded in 1995. We have about 400 members, from which 100 are fishermen or have other connections in fishery. We are an unpolitical NGO with interests in the marine environment and resources.

We are working for an increased public attention about the marine environment and the professional fishery. Within fishery, we support the coastal fishery and the fishery conducted in a way, which doesn’t damage or jeopardize nature – what we have named ”real fishery”, as opposed to the industrialized. We believe for example that the support for de-commission fishing vessels should be given to the vessels and the methods, which have caused the sad condition of our fish stocks. Instead of relatively few highly fuel consuming vessels, we want a rich fishery from more smaller vessels, which can conduct their fishery from the many harbours. This should be a fishery which is conducted in accordance with the marine environment – that is: not destroying the sea bottom, nor damaging the stocks.

The methods employed by our society, are very much centred around action. We are on the sea throughout the year, in close contact with the marine environment and with the fishermen. In this way, we also seek and gain contact with the many people, who visit the harbours. It is important for the public understanding of the fishery that people can meet the fishermen in the many harbours. We also try to keep a good relation to the media, to the authorities and to the politicians. At the moment we are focusing on the very serious and wide spread oxygen loss which is threatening the life in practically all Danish waters this year.

I will here sketch the most significant of the reservations, which Living Sea has about the EU fishery reform, as it is projected, and which is sought to be agreed upon during the Danish presidency.

1.     The reform is useless when it comes to the adjustment of the fleet to the resources. We believe that the common fishery politics should decide against the vessels and fishing methods, which are the very reason why we need the reform. We have heard that around 8,000 vessels needed to be taken out of the fishery. But when less than 1 billion Euro have been earmarked for this purpose, there will be no realistic offer for the very big ships. This means that we will instead continue at the useless course, which we have followed the last 15 years, where more than 1,300 vessels have been taken out from Danish fishery alone, without any improvement of the situation. There has been no improvement because the fishermen, who accepted this arrangement, were the fishermen who conducted a fishery in balance with stocks and environment. In Denmark we almost managed to wipe out the Danish anchor seine fishery, which is a very gentle and sustainable fishery. Today, trawlers and beam trawlers catch the Danish flat fish. This is the simple reason why the billions spend on decommissions haven’t helped us getting a more sustainable fishery on plaice.

2.     With the reform, EU will stop giving subsidies for European fishery. This is god, but not god for the environmentally sustainable fishery. We believe, that the common fishery politics should support building of real fishery because it can fulfil the aims of the common European fishery politics, which is directed to rebuilding of the stocks, and protection of the habitats.

 3.    The reform mentions the industrial fishery by saying that this fishery should be investigated. We believe its reasonable already today to have strong reservations about the sustainability of the industrial fishery, when measured in terms of the marine eco system.

 4.    The common fishery politics should more actively, than it is the case with the regional councils, make a concrete support for new fishery societies and producers’ organizations. In Danish fishery for example, there is a wide spread dissatisfaction with the one organization, which ”speaks on behalf of all Danish fishermen”. The common fishery politics should support the European fishermen, who are unsatisfied with the big, national fishery organizations, because these do not take into consideration the special situation and needs of the smaller and ecologically sustainable fishery. It is our experience that this dissatisfaction is a real problem within large parts of European fishery. But from this dissatisfaction and to actually breaking with the big organizations there is still a distance.

There are other themes, I would have liked to address, like the labelling of fish from sustainable fishery, the role of the commission in relation to the ministers’ council, and some other factors than fishery, which have caused the historically low stocks – like the oxygen loss in the Danish waters – but I want to make this one last statement on behalf of the board of The Danish Society For A Living Sea.

We are critical of the common European fishery politics, which has spend 10 years on trying to create a reform for a more sustainable fishery, without having the needed backup from the national governments and the major fishery organizations. Until to day, this reform has only created a common understanding in the individual countries for the facts that the European fishery is too big for the resources within European waters.

The suggested reform will not solve the big problems, which the future European fishery will face.

Thank you