CMO: Commission sent back to drawing board
By Anne Eckstein | Wednesday 20 June 2012
‘No’ to a total ban on discards, ‘no’ to landing obligations, ‘no’ to free distribution... By adopting, by a very large majority, a report by Struan Stevenson (ECR, UK) on the proposed reform of the common organisation of the markets (CMO) in fishery products, Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) has sent the European Commission back to the drawing board on this matter. Its position on the next stage of work for the Council and Commission on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) has therefore been made very clear. The report, adopted on 20 June, will be put to the plenary vote in September.
MEPs rejected the total ban on discards proposed by the Commission, preferring instead to focus on the reduction of by-catches, particularly in order to improve the selectivity of catches so that non-saleable fish (those outside quotas and juveniles) remain in the sea. Moreover, taking into account the landing requirement for all catches, several hundred thousand extra fish will be landed: distributing them for free for charitable purposes would mean creating a market for juvenile fish, which MEPs found unacceptable. Organisations such as schools and homes already buy fish: giving them away for free would constitute a significant loss of income for fishermen, and it would also be disastrous in terms of rebuilding stocks, taking into account the essential role played by juveniles in this process. Therefore, free distribution was also rejected by MEPs, who suggested instead that these fish should be sold to industry, and some of the income from such sales should be returned to fishermen and/or shipowners, while also providing funds to help with selectivity.
On labelling, MEPs were almost on the same wavelength as the Council. They rejected the idea of making it obligatory to provide the date of capture on labels, preferring to leave it up to fishermen to choose (which could benefit small-scale local fishermen), but accepted the obligation to give the date of landing; there is no discrimination between local and industrial fishing.
Referring to the proliferation of ecolabels (there are more than 65 organic labels in Europe) created by numerous organisations, MEPs wanted to ‘clean house’. Therefore, they called on the Commission to present a proposal for a legislative framework, possibly in collaboration with some of these organisations, in order to introduce an ecolabel on 1 January 2015. This could be used by producers in third countries who meet the right criteria, thus putting imports and EU produce on the same footing.
Finally, MEPs backed measures on producer organisations (POs), rejecting once more the Commission’s proposal to bring to 65% the proportion of ships in a zone in membership of a PO, thereby defending the standard of 30% currently in force. It is worth noting that the Stevenson report does not elaborate on the controversial question of transferable fishing concessions (TFCs).