EU fish reform puts jobs at risk
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- Thousands of jobs in the fishing industry could be at risk after a proposal for drastic EU policy reform was adopted in an attempt to increase depleted stocks.
Following weeks of arguments, the European Commission on Tuesday unveiled plans to reduce the size of the EU's fleet by 8.5 percent and scale back aid given to modernise vessels.
"It's make or break time for EU fisheries. If we want to give our fishermen a future, we need a new Common Fisheries Policy," EU Fisheries Commissioner Franz Fischler said in a statement.
"Either we have the courage to make bold reforms now, or we watch the demise of our fisheries sectors in the years ahead."
The plans, which will now be discussed by EU governments, have been harshly criticised by Mediterranean countries such as Spain, the biggest beneficiary of the one billion euro ($920 million) a year EU policy.
The commissioner, who is from landlocked Austria, said the reform did not mean the EU believed that fish were more important than fishermen. "But if we carry on like this, both will dwindle and disappear more and more," he said.
The commission, which believes the EU's fishing fleet is twice as big as it should be to catch a sustainable amount of fish, said after discussions in December 2001 that years of over-fishing had left 12 fish stocks -- defined as a species in a particular fishing area -- close to extinction.
Just one year earlier, there were four or five stocks in such a perilous condition, it said.
Stocks of North Sea cod, for example, remain close to collapse and the catch quota there, which was slashed by half last year, was maintained for at least the first six months of 2002 in a bid to rebuild fish numbers.
Cod quotas in the Kattegat in Norway were also reduced by 55 percent. Quotas in the Irish Sea and the Bay of Biscay were cut by 18 percent.
Fischler also on Tuesday proposed ending the system under which yearly catch quotas are decided every December, and replacing it with programmes lasting several years, which scientists say will protect stocks better.
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