This year, as we've been working closely with UK small scale fishermen, one thing has become abundantly clear: the EU Common Fisheries Policy, or CFP, is not working. Full stop.
It's not working for fishermen in the communities along our coasts; it's not working for fish or the marine environment and it's certainly not working for consumers.
That's why, today here in the UK, we launched a joint manifesto with NUTFA (the New Under Ten Fishermen's Association, the guys who support and represent small scale fishermen), and a number of Fishermen’s Associations. This manifesto is our shared vision -- it calls on the UK government to ensure a future for fish and fishing communities by supporting local, sustainable fishermen, via radical reform of the CFP. And it sets out agreement between Greenpeace and fishermen, as to what exactly needs to change. Yes, that’s right, environmentalists and fishermen agreeing on fishy issues!
The alliances that have formed between Greenpeace and fishermen this year may seem unusual to some – but gone are the days of throwing stones at each other – at the end of the day, both Greenpeace and the UK’s inshore fishermen want a future with (sustainable) fish on the plate but plenty left in the sea. We work with low impact fishermen, who look after their patch. And who, tragically, may be the last of their kind, due to broken European and domestic fisheries polices that are stacked in favour of powerful European fleets.
Europe's fishing grounds, which were once the largest in the world, are dwindling. In fact, over 70% of our fish stocks are overfished. And the situation isn't getting any better. Highly industrialised European fishing fleets continue to overfish our seas, using unsustainable and often destructive methods of fishing. Their fleets are so powerful that they can catch up to 3 times more fish than the ocean can handle.
If only there were rules and regulations to stop this from happening! This is where the CFP comes in. The irony is that this policy was put in place by the EU some 40 years ago precisely to avoid this kind of situation. The situation we find ourselves in today, however, is a mess.
Both current and past policies favour the most influential and powerful European fishing fleets, enabling them to overfish our seas. These operations, many of which are both environmentally and economically unsustainable, are often kept afloat with taxpayers' money.
What this means in practice is that parts of the European fleet catch more fish than is sustainable, while disenfranchising small scale, sustainable fishers. In the UK, these small scale operators - also known as "under 10s" or boats that are under 10 metres in length - make up more than three quarters of the total UK fleet. The majority of them use selective methods that produce high quality fish, allow fish stocks to replenish themselves and have little impact on the marine environment.
But they have consistently suffered under an unfair system – despite representing 77% of the UK fishing fleet, small-scale boats receive only 4% of the fishing quota. Our local fishermen in Cornwall, East Sussex, Devon and other coastal communities around the UK are in real danger of losing their livelihoods. Local fishing communities who have fished responsibly for generations are shrinking, and may disappear forever. Meanwhile, they watch as highly-industrialised vessels from countries such as Spain and France fish on the 6 nautical mile mark, given “traditional” fishing rights under the CFP.
So, as the CFP is under review for the first time in a decade, Greenpeace and fishermen jointly call for a new CFP that gives the right to fish to those who fish in the right way, ends destructive fishing practices, and puts the health of our oceans at the very heart of the CFP.
By working with Greenpeace, the voices of the UK's sustainable fishermen have a chance to be heard. Together we are trying to salvage a future for fish, fishermen, and coastal communities. But we can't do it without you. Be a fisherman's friend and show the UK government that together, we're a voice that must be heard.