Fishing rights and small-scale fisheries

European small-scale fisheries has been deprived of their rights to fair and secure access to quota and fishing grounds, claims LIFE

Historical injustices have deprived 70% of the European fishing fleet of fair and secure access to fishing quotas and fishing grounds.

This fleet segment accounts for 50% of the fishing jobs at sea. Due to these injustices, the sector has to fall back on “non-quota” species and so is restricted to only 5% of the EU’s fish catch.

In times of famine, historically the European aristocracy were reputed to say about the protesting poor: “If they have no bread, then let them eat cake”. Similarly, today, those with quota privileges are all too often quick to say, “the quota is legally ours, let the small guys fish for non-quota species”, when the small-scale fishers demand a fair share.

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The issue of fairness is a central plank of the EU’s CFP (Regulation (EU) 1380/2013). Article 2 f) states that the CFP shall contribute to a fair standard of living for those who depend on fishing activities, bearing in mind coastal fisheries and socio-economic aspects.
However, for those with privileges and entitlements, what is fair and equitable may feel like oppression.

The Low Impact Fishers of Europe are calling for “fair fisheries”, i.e. an equitable allocation of access rights and a say in how the access is managed. Article 17 of the CFP could provide a mechanism for achieving fairer fisheries. However, the “big industry” reject the proposal to introduce the necessary alternative allocation mechanisms for fishing opportunities through Article 17. “We are legally entitled to these privileges” say the multinational Pelagic Freezer Trawler Association (PFA).

“No bread (quota species) for the small-scale fishers? Well, then let them eat cake (non-quota species)”, says the PFA.

Where there is such an imbalance in power relations and concentration of fishing rights, conflict is inevitable.

As well as concentrating the entitlements to fishing opportunities, the “big industry” also controls the functioning of the democratic bodies set up to resolve conflicts and provide a voice for the sector. They preside the Advisory Councils, the Producer Organisations and the National Fisheries structures, and claim to represent both small and large fishing companies.

The Cornelis Vrolijk, a Dutch multinational fishing company now controls the French National Fisheries Committee and one of the largest French POs, for example. How can a Dutch multinational corporation represent the interests of the small-scale fleet?

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by Brian O’Riordan – Executive SecretaryLow Impact Fishers of Europe (LIFE Platform)

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