The days looked numbered for the much maligned quota system that has been blamed for bringing the south west fishing industry to its knees.
At a meeting in Brussels, European fisheries ministers have agreed a consensus that effectively scraps the current rules that decide how much fish can be caught. Environmentalists and fishermen alike have long argued that the current system – which is set annually – fails the industry.
Currently, catches that exceed quota have to be thrown back overboard even if dead, while the numbers of fishermen in the UK have fallen by a third over the past decade.
Ministers have agreed to draw up a new Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by 2012 which will also be radically decentralised, giving more power to the industry over the management of its fish stocks.
The news has been welcomed by St Ives MP and fisheries spokesman for his party in Parliament, Andrew George.
George described the outcome of the meeting as a ‘breakthrough for commonsense’. He said: “Fisheries management has, for too long, been dependent upon the blunt instrument of quota management. In a mixed fishery, like that around the Cornish coast, fish are not saved through quotas. In the main, over quota fish are simply dumped back into the sea dead. Nothing is gained.
“I have always argued that it would be far better for fishermen – with scientists and other stakeholders – to manage their own stocks themselves. It has been bizarre to leave stock management to bureaucrats in landlocked Brussels.
“Instead of an over dependence on quotas, fishermen can agree with scientists how best to manage their fishery for a sustainable future. Closed areas (like the Trevose ground of the North Cornish coast), technical measures (like restrictions placed on the type of gear which fishermen can use) and other approaches would be better used than continuing to press on regardless of the counter productivity of the policy”.
Paul Trebilcock, CEO of the Cornish Fish Producers Organisation, added: “The CFP has been over-centralised, under reactive and ineffective, a result of which has been to bring the fishing industry to its knees.
“Fundamentally it has not done what it is supposed to and as result has been harmful to the industry. You won’t get many arguments about that round here.”
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