Oceana believes that Spain should change its fishing policy to justify its recent appointment as the headquarters of the Community Fisheries Control Agency.
The decision of the European Union to establish the Community Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo represents a challenge for the Spanish Government, which at the same time as receiving this news, declared that it did not accept the fishing proposals of the European Fisheries Commissioner, Franz Fischler.
Oceana warns that Spain has also announced that it is to form a common front together with Portugal, Greece, Italy, Ireland, Belgium and Holland, to derail any proposal aimed at reducing the fishing effort, even though these proposals aim to protect over-exploited stocks and ensure the re-population of certain species of fish. Oceana stresses that these measures have the general support of the scientific community, which has recommended even greater cutbacks.
As Portugal and Spain are the countries where two of the agencies with the greatest maritime leverage in Europe are to be established, the Iberian Peninsula is taking on an extremely important role in leading the campaign for the protection of the oceans. In addition to the Community Fisheries Control Agency in Vigo, the headquarters of the European Maritime Security Agency will be in Lisbon. This agency is entrusted with safeguarding maritime traffic and setting in motion measures geared towards reducing the risks of new accidents involving oil tankers and other commercial vessels.
Some fish stocks, such as cod and hake, are on the verge of extinction, and this could create chaos in the European fishing sector. To put a stop to this situation, the ICES (International Council for the Exploration of the Sea) has proposed a moratorium for certain species which will allow them to repopulate.
Despite overwhelming scientific proof of the critical situation of fish stocks in Europe, various governments, headed by Spain, have decided to ignore these warnings and have chosen to plunge even further into an exploitation of marine resources which is irrational and is at odds with scientific information.
“The choice of Vigo as the headquarters of the Community Fisheries Control Agency should bring about a rapid change in the Spanish Government’s position. It would not be a good start for the host Government to be the main opponent of the measures being promoted by the Agency”, declared Xavier Pastor, Director of Oceana for Europe.
Fischler’s proposals, despite being on the right track, are far from being effective, as reductions in fishing effort have been classified as inadequate by scientists. In addition, he is still unwilling to address one of the main problems in European fishing: bottom trawling.
This fishing technique not only over-exploits fish stocks, but also results in significant additional mortality, damages the sea bed, and destroys vital spawning and breeding areas of commercial species.
In Europe there are more than 12,000 bottom trawlers, which have a tremendous impact on marine ecosystems. Indeed, the species whose fate hangs in the balance, are those that are targeted by this kind of fishing, such as cod, hake, monkfish and Dublin Bay prawns, meaning that other less damaging and more selective fishing methods are also adversely affected. Currently, between 65% and 100% of EU fish stocks are over-exploited. According to Oceana, the ecological and political pressure exerted by the trawler sector is endangering the continuity of fishing in Europe and preventing the regeneration of fish stocks.
Neither Spain nor the European Union can turn their back on scientific knowledge and head off down a dead end.
At the meeting of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels, the Spanish Government has the opportunity to demonstrate that its interest in protecting fishery resources justifies its selection as the headquarters of the Fisheries Control Agency.
It should withdraw its objections to the fishing plans for 2004.