Drift Net Ban hanging on by its fingernails


The ill-conceived European Commission proposal for a ban on small-scale drift nets is badly wounded but lingering on in intensive care.

All the signs are that the Commission now recognises that
the proposal was a colossal misjudgement; but having made the proposal, and with
co-decision involving the European Parliament still in in its infancy, it feels
that it can’t lose face by withdrawing its own proposal. The impression is that
the Commission wouldn’t be too disappointed if its own proposal just evaporated
or someone else (the Council or the Parliament) put it out of its misery.

The UK government and other member states, the regional
advisory councils, and even some NGOs have formed an orderly queue to denounce the
proposal as a misconceived blanket measure that would rob a significant number
of small-scale fishermen of their livelihoods, or in some fisheries at least a
significant part of their livelihoods.

The NFFO led a
of small-scale fishermen to Brussels in September last year to
explain, in detail, to the Commission, what the effect of a ban would be and to
emphasise that the drift net fisheries practised in the UK are fully in line
with the best sustainability criteria. Some of them are MSC accredited.

The proposal now languishes in the European Parliament.
Although it has been quite hard to read the voting arithmetic in the EP
Fisheries Committee, there seemed to be a majority of MEPs in favour of killing
off the whole proposal. Others, although accepting that the proposal is flawed,
want to retain the parts that would let them deal with deficiencies in
enforcement in the Mediterranean.

The whole issue has now become procedural. The driftnet proposal was meant to be
voted on this week in the PECH Committee. MEPs have however, decided to
postpone the vote (probably until next month) pending more information from
another committee. The Chairman and the Coordinators will draft a written
question to the Committee on Constitutional Affairs (AFCO) seeking this
procedural clarification on the admissibility of amendments 22, 23, 24 which
seek to reject the Commission proposal completely.

The NFFO will continue to work with Europeche, the UK
Government, the regional advisory councils and individual MEPs, to ensure that
this mistake never sees the light of day.