Richard Dixon: Sustainable fishing is just a vote away
Everyone knows that for 30 years Europe’s fisheries ministers have made decisions that have resulted in overfishing, sending our fishing industry and the communities that depend upon them into decline.
Despite positive initiatives by some fishermen, government and scientists in Scotland, currently two thirds of Europe’s commercial fisheries are still over-exploited and every year more fishermen are losing their jobs. If this is allowed to continue we will bankrupt our oceans and our fishing economy.
However, all that could change in the next few weeks as the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee debates and votes on the future of our seas. The good news is that, thanks to the presence of two Scottish MEPs, Struan Stevenson and Ian Hudghton, Scotland will have a voice at this meeting.
We know that they fully understand that a sustainable fishing industry is the best way to protect our marine environment, support jobs and protect communities. Indeed, the benefits of fixing the currently broken Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) were reinforced again this week in an independent report commissioned by WWF. This found that ambitious reform of the CFP, which enabled fish stocks to return to healthy and sustainable levels, would result in an increase in landings, profit and income for the fisheries sector.
The benefits over the next decade could include an increase in earnings for the UK fisheries sector of 40 per cent by 2022; an additional 2.8 million tonnes of sustainably caught fish landed by EU fishermen (an increase of around 80 per cent) and the generation of an extra £1.7 billion per year in income for the fisheries – representing up to a 50 per cent increase in income per fisherman across the EU.
In short, the environment and the economy could benefit as long as fisheries are managed sustainably. We hope that together MEPs Stevenson and Hudghton can convince their fellow MEPs to grasp this unique opportunity and vote through reforms that will secure the recovery of fish stocks and a prosperous future for our fishing industry.
• Dr Richard Dixon is director of WWF Scotland.
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Thursday 23 May 2013
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