Politicians dawdle as fish stocks dwindle

Feature story - 20 December, 2002
Despite stark warnings from scientists that many fish stocks in the North Sea are close to collapse EU politicians did as they have always done over fish stocks - fudged the issue so both the fish and the fishermen will lose out eventually.

It's time to cut down on fish sticks: Greenpeace 'codheads' at Norway's royal palace to demand an end to overfishing.

After days of acrimonious debate EU ministers congratulated themselves on reaching agreements this week at the EU fisheries meeting. But the compromises will allow for the continued plunder of the seas in the EU and abroad rather than the required tough choices to safeguard stocks. The politicians have failed dismally in their efforts to come up with a fisheries management policy that would safeguard fisheries, instead preferring to negotiate compromises that are weak and ineffective but politically safe.

Helene Bours, who was following the meeting for Greenpeace was dismayed "The changes are merely cosmetic. The only ones who win are the big fishing fleets who will sail away when the North Sea is fished out leaving fishing communities stranded. People got so caught up in hammering out the details of compromise after compromise that sound recommendations originally tabled were ignored."

For many years the EU own scientists have underlined the fact there are too many fishing boats chasing too few fish. But politicians are hugely influenced by the fishing industry lobby. So another opportunity to halt the dramatic decline in fish stocks passes in weak ineffective compromises that are only aimed to save the politicians, not the fish.

"In refusing to face up to the consequences of their decisions, and in looking no further than their immediate waters - and short-term interests - the ministers showed cowardice and dodged their responsibilities," said Bours. "They will have to bear the blame and the shame of their actions when the fish disappear."