Fight goes on despite disappointing fish funding votes

10-Jul-2013 @ 18:0

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Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Anthea McIntyre Anthea McIntyre

Fight goes on despite disappointing fish funding votes

Conservative MEPs vowed today to keep up pressure for fairer funding and greater sustainability across Europe's fisheries, despite a disappointing series of votes in Brussels today.

They were reacting after the European Parliament's Fisheries Committee voted on a raft of proposals for the European Marine and Fisheries Fund.

Although Conservatives were deeply frustrated with the approval of aid for building new fishing boats and subsidies for replacing engines (no matter how large the vessel), they were pleased to win an argument that the package should be sent straight to a plenary sitting of the full Parliament so that all MEPs could have a say on the controversial moves.

They were also encouraged that they secured greater financial support for enforcement and data-colleciton and that were was some funding for ships to buy new gear to reduce by-catch.

Julie Girling, MEP for the South West and Gibraltar and lead Conservative in the fund negotiations, said: "This is not the end of the story. The votes taken in the committee today will now be debated and voted by the full Parliament in plenary session.

"We shall be working hard to secure a majority for a much more sensible use of the fund.

"The EMFF has brought limited benefit to the UK and we need to tread carefully. In fact we only get about three per cent of the total funding, which means we are effectively subsidising other nations' fishing operations, and thus equip them to compete unfairly against our own fleets.

"That is the way we are heading again - more funding for the biggest fishing nations to build bigger, better fleets. That is not the way forward. Instead we should be using the available funding to help fishermen re-gear their boats to meet the challenges of the much-needed ban on discards.", and also to promote better scientific research and data collection.

Struan Stevenson, Senior Vice Pesident of the Fisheries Committee, said: "When I was President of the committee in 2003, ending the subsidised building of new fishing was one of my key achievements. At that time there was huge over-capacity in the EU fleet and fish stocks across European waters were dwindling.

"Tough new regulations imposed by Brussels were making life extremely difficult for fishermen in the UK and many were applying for subsidies to have their vessels scrapped. I remember even some brand new vessels being towed to Denmark to be broken up, because their skippers could no longer afford to pay bank interest on the multi-million pound loans they had taken out to build the vessels in the first place.

"It seemed incredible to me that taxpayers' money was being used to scrap vessels in the UK while taxpayers' money was simultaneously being used to build new vessels in France and Spain.

"It was during Italy's rotating presidency of the EU and I asked permission to address the Council of Finance Ministers about this scandalous state of affairs. After my address they voted to end subsidies for building new fishing vessels. Some Southern Member States were horrified and have sought an opportunity to reintroduce these subsidies ever since.

"In today's massive three and a half hour voting session in the Fisheries Committee they got their chance. It is now crucial that we get the majority of MEPs to vote down this catastrophic decision."

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