France and Spain back down on discard ban

21 Mar 2012
French fishing vessels. Credit: Philippe Alès

French fishing vessels. Credit: Philippe Alès

It looks like Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight has worked again, with an expected bid from French and Spanish ministers to block a ban on discards failing to materialise.

It was reported that the two countries had been hoping to persuade fellow fisheries ministers to sign a declaration opposing a ban on discards at the AgriFish Council in Brussels this week. However, after Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall’s latest campaign, asking followers to send Twitter and Facebook messages to ministers urging them to oppose the draft declaration, France and Spain did not insist on a vote.

Over 130,000 messages were sent.

Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall told supporters: "Discard disaster has been averted as the French, Spanish, Portguese and Belgian revolution just didn't happen. Maria Damanaki led from the front and seems to be building consensus among the ministers."

Liberal Democrat MEP Chris Davies, who is secretary of the cross-party 'Fish for the Future' group in the European Parliament, said: "I had heard rumours that those opposed to reform could not expect to win a majority, and it looks as though France and Spain decided not to put the issue to the test.

"Nations like Austria, with no fishing fleet of their own, spoke out strongly in favour of a discard ban and it's enormously helpful that countries that eat fish but don't catch it are getting involved in the fight.”

The European Commission is proposing that discarding should be prohibited from the end of 2015. European fisheries commissioner, Maria Damanaki, also recognised that the EU needs to incentivise anti-discard measures and tackle the problem on a fishery-by-fishery basis. 

The Council of Ministers is expected to vote on CFP reform in June, while the first key vote in the European Parliament's fisheries committee will take place in July.

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