“What a way to run an industry!”
"What a way to run an industry!"
Those were the words of a leading fishing industry representative on the news that the Chairman of the Fisheries Committee had performed a complete volte-face over plans that would have led to the introduction of the discard ban for cod a year early. For 24 hours or so, the New Year looked very bleak for fishermen.
As I wrote yesterday, the Fisheries Committee voted to extend the timeframe to amend a highly technical 'delegated act' that provided for the phasing in of the discard ban. This meant that, by law, demersal fishermen would have to land every single fish they caught at sea from day one, with no time to prepare for what will be a seismic shift in fishing policy.
The reaction from the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group was one of shock, but also anger. The ECR was clear from the outset that the vote yesterday was catastrophic for fishermen across Europe. How could anyone on the Fisheries Committee believe that a small technical disagreement, between the Parliament and the Commission, could be more important than delivering on the promises made to fishermen?
My colleagues and I were resolute. Fishermen should never have to pay for the mistakes of the European Union. Today, we can rejoice that the discard ban will go ahead as originally planned. But I despair at the actions of some on the Committee, especially the SNP and UKIP groups (EFA & EFDD) who were prepared to let petty internal European squabbles have such a devastating impact on Scotland's fishing industry. In UKIP's case this is perhaps explained by the comment allegedly made by their representative:
"I didn't know what I was voting for"
Always a valid excuse I'm sure you will agree...
My colleague, Peter Van Dalen of the Netherlands, deserves particular credit for reacting swiftly to get a resolution as fast as he did. The fishermen of Scotland and Europe can rest assured that in the ECR there is a team that is determined to fight tooth and nail for the industry.