Small-scale fishermen and Greenpeace call on EU ministers to end quota madness

Demonstration takes place as fisheries ministers decide how much fish can be caught in 2013

Press release - December 18, 2012
Brussels, 18 December 2012 – European small-scale fishermen and Greenpeace have joined forces to warn EU fisheries ministers not to favour Europe’s destructive industrial fishing fleet, ahead of annual negotiations to decide how much fish can be caught next year.

Fishermen and Greenpeace campaigners displayed a 3D banner depicting a healthy sea emerging from under the pavement outside the Council building in Brussels, where the negotiations will take place until 19 December. Artisanal fishermen from France, Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece held banners, in different languages, reading: “Fishing quotas: take from the big, give to the small.” The campaigners distributed to delegates folded paper boats with a message calling for meaningful reform of EU fisheries rules.

By Wednesday, ministers will agree the amount of fish that can be caught in areas of the North, Irish, Celtic and Iberian Seas and wider Atlantic region, and the resulting shares for each country. Their decisions will determine whether fish stocks will be overfished, i.e. fished beyond limits which the fish populations can sustain, or fished sustainably, allowing fish stocks to replenish themselves and support local fishing communities. Annual EU fishing quotas are regularly set above levels recommended by scientists [1].

Members of the European Parliament’s fisheries committee will also vote today (Tuesday) on proposals for a wider, once-in-a-decade reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The vote marks an important step in the reform process and is expected to be extremely tight [2].

Imanol Ugartemendia, a French fisherman from the Plateforme de la petite pêche artisanale, said: “If ministers do the right thing, there can be a future in our seas, but there is no future in overfishing. We need to fish less and fish smart to protect our heritage and keep the seas healthy for our children. But cuts to quotas must not penalise those who use sustainable fishing practices, like hand-lines, traps or coastal nets. We should be given priority when quotas are distributed because we have the lowest impact on the environment and because we contribute most jobs and benefits for local communities.”

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “The EU’s mantra of more and better jobs is just a con if politicians do not back those that operate sustainable businesses. In fishing this means making sure that the most sustainable fishermen are allowed to fish, while the most destructive vessels and the most damaging fishing activities are scrapped. It is time to knock some sense and science into European fishing rules.”
As part of the ongoing reform of the CFP, environmental organisations and the sustainable and small-scale fisheries sector have called for a new approach to quota allocations, granting preferential access to fishing to the most environmentally and socially beneficial fishermen.

Small-scale fishing vessels (around 12 metres or less) make up about 80% of the European fishing sector, but are only granted a fraction of fishing quotas [3]. Last month, small-scale fishermen from across Europe signed a joint declaration calling for an equitable reform of the CFP [4].

Note to editors:
[1] Latest advice from the EU’s main advisory body, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea:
[2] A separate comment on the outcome of this vote will be issued by Greenpeace and will be available at
[3] Facts and figures on the Common Fisheries Policy 2012, European Commission, page 12:
[4] (English) (French) (Spanish) (German) (Greek)

Imanol Ugartemendia – French small-scale fisherman: +33 6 62 46 1120

Saskia Richartz – Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director: +32 (0)495 290028,
Mark Breddy – Greenpeace EU communications: +32 (0)496 156229,

For photo and video footage: Hugo Duchesne: +33 1 80 96 97 56,

For breaking news and comment on EU affairs, follow us on Twitter: @GreenpeaceEU
For news from the demonstration, follow: #fairfishing

Greenpeace is an independent global campaigning organisation that acts to change attitudes and behaviour, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace. Greenpeace does not accept donations from governments, the EU, businesses or political parties.