Now that the landing obligation has entered into force, what are your priorities?
Back in 2013, I voted against such a measure, as I think it is almost impossible to implement. We need to work towards the elimination of discards, but imposing a complete ban is nonsensical. Through the implementing measures, for which I was rapporteur, I introduced more flexibility for fishermen. I simplified the methods for sorting the fish on-board, delayed sanctions for the non-respect of the obligation by two years and prevented the introduction of mandatory CCTV on the fishing boats. At my request, the European Commission and the member states will have to submit a yearly evaluation of the discard ban’s implementation. Through the EMFF, the EU is financially supporting fishermen to invest in more selective fishing gears, and to adapt their boats to the landing obligation.
What solutions exist to renew the European fishing fleet?
Improving selectivity can only be achieved through a complete renewal of the fleet, that is a fact. I had in fact suggested this for the EMFF, but a majority of MEPs disagreed. Today, the European fishing fleet is aging, and this raises a lot of issues, particularly with regards to safety. Although the EMFF cannot finance the renewal of the European vessels, it can contribute to their modernisation, by funding new engines, investing in more selective fishing gears or improving safety on board.
What role can an NGO such as Blue Fish play in this?
I commend the work of Blue Fish, which contributes a great deal to our work. The members of the PECH Committee are always striving to maintain a regular dialogue with external stakeholders. Our Committee meetings are public and we often organise public hearings and consultations with experts from a variety of backgrounds. I am always available to meet and listen to everyone. I believe that in order to produce good regulations, we have to listen carefully to those who will have to implement them on the ground.
How can you support Blue Fish?
My duties as Chair are to make sure that, when we organise hearings or consultations, no one is left out. Blue Fish’s voice will be heard. Moreover, Blue Fish can benefit from financial support from the EMFF for its work on the ground. I am thinking, for instance, about the collaboration between scientists and fishermen, about sustainable fishing initiatives or projects to promote the entire value chain of the fishing sector. The EU is looking for partners who can launch innovative projects and the PECH Committee is part of this initiative.
Will you be willing to sponsor an upcoming Blue Fish action?
The “Coast to Coast” exhibition last year was stunning. A lot of MEPs were impressed and discovered concrete sustainable fishing initiatives. I am always ready to encourage dialogue between fishing professionals and European decision-makers. I will be delighted to attend any upcoming event organised by Blue Fish in the European Parliament.