EU parliament votes to overhaul fisheries policy

Press release - February 6, 2013
Strasbourg/Brussels – A historic vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg today has brought the prospect of a fast recovery of Europe’s fish stocks one step closer, according to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace EU fisheries policy director Saskia Richartz said: “This vote signals a momentous shift away from overfishing and is a testament to parliament’s resolve to defend the general interest. National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) supported measures to reduce fishing pressure by 2015 to allow fish stocks to recover to sustainable levels. They endorsed policies to bring the size of the EU’s fishing fleet in line with the availability of fish in the sea, to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods and to eliminate the wasteful practice of discarding (throwing unwanted fish overboard dead or dying). The Parliament also approved rules that would prohibit the EU’s fleet from overfishing the waters of foreign countries.

Today’s vote is the first time the European Parliament has been allowed to weigh into the legislative process on EU fisheries reform since it gained new powers as a co-legislator under the Lisbon Treaty in 2009. The Irish EU presidency has promised to wrap up negotiations on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) by June. After decades of overfishing, fuelled by a bloated and heavily subsidised EU fishing fleet, industrial fishing powers, including Spain and France, are now the main obstacles standing in the way of comprehensive fisheries reform, said Greenpeace.

Current fisheries policy favours destructive, large-scale fishing operations and has led to an unsustainable growth in the fishing capacity of the EU fleet, which in turn is fuelling overfishing. While the most powerful vessels catch most fish, small-scale fishing vessels (around 12 metres or less) make up about 80% of the European fishing sector [1] and usually cause less environmental harm. In November 2012, small-scale fishermen from across Europe signed a joint declaration calling for an equitable reform of the CFP [2].

Note to editors:
[1] Facts and figures on the Common Fisheries Policy 2012, European Commission, page 12:
[2] (English) (French) (Spanish) (German) (Greek)

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

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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.