Conservatives welcome withdrawal of moves to ban eel fishing

18-Jun-2013 @ 16:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Conservative MEPs today welcomed moves to safeguard traditional eel fishing and avoid a damaging EU-wide ban which would have destroyed the industry.

Members of the EP's fisheries committee reached a series of compromises which removed the more extreme measures proposed in a report by Swedish Green MEP Isabella Lövin. She had called for a complete ban on commercial and recreational eel fishing to be "the first option on the table" in a new recovery plan for eel stocks.

Instead, encouraged by Conservative negotiation in the Committee, MEPs decided to place greater emphasis on using scientific evidence to address declining stocks.

They insisted that any changes must involve consultations with fishing communities and thorough assessment of the potential impact of any restrictions.

The agreed package proposes long-term monitoring of eel stocks to find permanent solutions to declining numbers instead of emergency responses.

Crucially, the idea of an immediate blanket ban on eel fishing was dropped.

Fisheries spokesman Struan Stevenson, who is senior vice-president of the Fisheries Committee, had stressed to fellow MEPs that eel fishing in the UK is tightly regulated and there are controls in place to prevent the expansion of the existing fisheries. In January 2011, previous national eel byelaws were replaced with the new authorisations system.

EU eel regulations require Member States to prepare and implement Eel Management Plans in order to achieve an increase in the numbers of adult (silver) eels returning to sea. Under this legislation the UK Government has a target to increase the quantity of returning silver eel populations to 40% of historic (pre-1980s) levels in the long term.

A statement issued by Conservative MEPs said: "Eel fishing in then UK is part of the fabric of our rural way of life. It enjoys a long and rich history and needs to be protected. Banning or restricting it will have the opposite effect and could bring to an end centuries of tradition.

"Imposing an outright ban or strict limitations on commercial and recreational fishing is not the solution. There is, however, an urgent need to examine how the European Parliament and the Commission, working with member states, can improve eel stock recovery.

"The original proposals were far too restrictive and did not involve any form of consultation or impact assessment.

"The UK Government remains committed to working with the European Commission on ways to improve eel stock recovery. This is a much more pragmatic approach which addresses both falling stock levels, the challenges facing the industry, and the importance of protecting rural industries and traditions."
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