Brussels, 19 March 2012
Dear President, dear Ministers,
Let me first of all thank the Presidency for their commitment to making progress on the proposals for the reform. The non-paper that the Presidency has presented for our discussion today looks into how we can implement the discard ban. I would also like to thank all Ministers, because in the past weeks it was possible to identify in the Council working party the concrete issues that various fisheries are facing in terms of discarding.
My goal today is to listen to you so that we can look at these concrete issues together. I want to make concrete advancements and examine with you the excellent ideas which the Danish Presidency has put on paper for us. I want to find solutions for the problems so that we can improve the proposal that is on the table.
Let me just clear up one misconception. I have heard many times that we risk having large quantities of undersized fish rotting away on board vessels or truckloads of fish being transported for reduction to fish meal. This is not my intention. It is clear that we cannot eliminate discards just by introducing an obligation to land everything. What we have to do is to fish more selectively as the first step and we have funding available already now under the current fund to switch to more selective gears, and more support is foreseen in the new Fund.
If we have done well our homework on selectivity and adaptation of quotas to fishing patterns, we are looking at the smallest possible number of unwanted catches.
We have heard about practical problems and we need to create the conditions for industry and stakeholders to come up with practical solutions. This will of course require time and money.
The general principles listed in the non paper encompass very much the logic of our step by step approach to eliminate discarding, combined with elements of transition, and clear ideas for implementation.
The non paper lists clearly where Member States should take responsibility to ensure that quotas match actual fishing patterns. This is very important in our endeavors to avoid unwanted catches.
I want to be proactive here as well and tell you what I am ready to do from my end. Let me mention four concrete steps I want to take.
First, I am happy to have a fisheries, instead of a species based approach.
Second, we need to discuss between ourselves in order to find a solution to be flexible on introducing by-catch quotas for non targeted species.. Here I think we have to be a bit inventive. And we also need find a solution for over-quota fish.
Third, for the Mediterranean, where we don't have TACs and where already almost everything is landed, the main problem we have to face is not to incentivise the market for juvenile fish.
Fourth, I am open to co-operate with you so that if you want and if you agree to proceed already now to substantially reducing discards in the short term, then I am willing to propose quota incentives for those Member States who are introducing selective gears and pilot projects before the coming into force of the landing obligation.
Fifth, I will take the initiative to already now as STECF to give us a list of a species with a high survival rate so that these can be excluded from the landing obligation.
Also, if there is EU legislation that creates discards then I will change that.
All these steps that I have just mentioned are important, because it is our duty to make sure that industry is not faced with situations in which their day-to-day operations become impossible. We have to offer solutions to the reality of fishing. I want to assure you that I am committed to that. As the non paper highlights, there are pragmatic solutions and I believe the time has come to see what works for which fishery.
I want the pragmatic solutions that we can identify to be embedded in the general commitment of the ban.
With a clear description of the subject – which fisheries are we talking about.
And since we are now bringing forward the landing obligation in the Skaggerak as of January 2013 I am willing to consider if you have very good arguments to bring forward other fisheries and to add a year or two to the end date of the landing obligation.
I know you all want to make progress on this issue. I am looking forward to hearing your views on the questions and on the issues mentioned in the non-paper of the Presidency.