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Monday, 10 June, 2002, 18:10 GMT 19:10 UK
EU defends harsh fisheries cuts
Franz Fischler, European Fisheries Commissioner
Mr Fischler says the cuts are essential

Proposed cuts to Europe's fishing fleet, which are expected to cost about one in ten European fishermen their jobs, have been defended by the European Union's Fisheries Commissioner, Franz Fischler.

Spanish trawler
Fishermen object to job cuts dressed up as a rescue mission
In an interview with BBC News Online ahead of crucial talks on Tuesday about the allocation of fishing rights, Mr Fischler insisted that there was no other way of bringing threatened fish stocks back to sustainable levels:

Europe's fishing fleet must be reduced by 8,600 vessels if the industry's capacity is to be cut by the desired 8.5%, and about 28,000 jobs are likely to be lost in the process, the Commission has warned.

"It is true that the proposals will, in the beginning at least, sacrifice some fishermen and some sectors, but this is only because of the poor state of the stocks," Mr Fischer said.

Under pressure

Acknowledging that the fisheries policies of the European Union over the past 20 years have been a failure, Mr Fischer insisted that he would try to put it right.

"If we are prepared now to do these necessary changes, I am really convinced that we will have a good future for fishermen in the EU, and we will have sustainable stocks so we will have a sustainable fishing policy altogether," he said.

If the proposed measures are implemented, cod and hake stocks which are at risk of collapsing could be brought back to safe biological limits in about five years, the Commission has estimated.

"If we don't do it, we will have less and less fish and more and more fishing capacity," Mr Fischler said.

"I think we can't sit back and wait until the fish - and together with the fish, the fishermen - have gone,"

Angry responses

Job cuts dressed up as a rescue mission will not go down well with fishermen whose jobs are on the line.

Franz Fischler, European Fisheries Commissioner
Mr Fischler wants to set aside money to help redundant fishermen

"There are some good elements, but we don't like the proposal to cut the number of days at sea," the UK's National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, Barry Deas, told BBC Radio 4's "World at One".

"That would force many vessels into insolvency."

Several EU member states have said they are deeply opposed to Mr Fischler's proposal.

Spain, whose fishermen make up about a third of the European industry's numbers, has warned that it will put up strong resistance.

Portugal has called the proposal "unacceptable", France has described it as "incomplete, insufficient, inadmissible", Italy has called for the "sustained modernisation of the fishing fleet" and Ireland thinks it is "unfair".

Destructive efficiency

But Mr Fischler insisted that his proposal is based "neither on the principle of equal treatment nor on discrimination", insisting that "it is purely and simply a response to the state of stocks in the various EU waters".

During the last few years, Europe's fishing fleet has already been severely reduced.

And yet, the number of fish landed has stayed the same in many EU countries.

Efficiency improvements made by those remaining in the industry have cancelled out the effects of the fleet reduction, Mr Fischler explained.

"This is the reason why the reduction in the past was not big enough."

Help available

With about 8,000 fishermen leaving every year, it is clear that the industry has been bleeding jobs for years.

In the past, there has been little help available, Mr Fischler pointed out.

But this could change.

Mr Fischler wants to end all EU aid to build new trawlers or to modernise old ones.

This would save 460m euros (298m; $435m) which he wants to redirect to pay for retraining for fishermen who want to get jobs elsewhere, or for early retirement for others.

Mr Fischler even vowed to "make additional money available if needed" to cushion the social effects of the proposed reform.


Mr Fischler's proposal must be agreed by EU ministers before it can come into effect.

"There is a preparedness that reform is necessary," Mr Fischler said.

"The Commission will not accept any watering down of the substance of the proposal."

Neither will there be room for cheating.

"Legislation without good implementation doesn't help at all," Mr Fischler said.

Under the proposal, pan-European control measures would be introduced, including satellite monitoring of the movement of boats with licences, inspectors onboard some boats and an obligation to land catches over a certain quantity at designated ports.

Franz Fischler, European Fisheries Commissioner
It is true that some fishermen will be sacrificed
Franz Fischler, European Fisheries Commissioner
The remaining fishermen will have much better chances"
See also:

10 Jun 02 | Europe
28 May 02 | Europe
28 May 02 | Science/Nature
16 Feb 02 | Boston 2002
28 May 02 | England
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