The EU's Fisheries Commissioner has warned EU governments that a speedy resolution is needed to resolve the deadlock over reform of the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), during a meeting of the EU Fisheries Council on 22 April 2013.
There is currently a row between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament over the issues of discards, which sees edible but unwanted dead fish thrown back in the sea.
MEPs want a full discard ban on all fish stocks by 2015, but the Council has backed a phased discard ban that would not be completed until 2017.
Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki - who broadly backs the parliament's stance - warned that the member states were "running out of choices" and that "postponing the issues will not be of good to anybody".
The chair of the Fisheries Council, Ireland's Simon Coveney, said everyone agreed there needed to be new rules on the size and capacity of fishing fleets, but that "what has to be worked out is the mechanism to get us there".
He insisted ministers were working towards securing a deal by the May meeting of the Fisheries Council, and said there were already "signals on areas where we can find compromise".
The full public deliberations of fisheries ministers can be viewed here.
This underlines the difficulty inherent in the EU co-decision process - finding agreement and hard negotiation between the tiers of the EU governance system: the Commission, the Parliament, and the Council of Ministers. So what do we know:
- The European Parliament called for a total ban to take effect 2015, one year later than sought by European Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki;
- This timetable was opposed by the fishing industry and some EU members France, Spain, Portugal and Malta who indicated that it was unrealistic for implementation across their industries;
- A delay (a five year implementation plan) made its way into the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers and the resolution of the Council in it's 'general approach' reflected this;
- Under the agreement, a discard ban on pelagic species, such as herring and mackerel, would start in January 2014, but wouldn't take effect in the North Sea until 2016. The Mediterranean wouldn't be covered until 2017;
- The discard ban would apply to the main demersal stocks such as cod, haddock and whiting in the North Sea and Atlantic waters beginning in 2016;
- The ban will apply to Mediterranean, Black Sea and all other EU waters beginning in 2017.
- There is now a negotiation in place over the final text between the European Parliament, European Commission and member states - a 'trialogue' who will try to agree on a final version to be voted on by the Parliament. The next critical date is the 2nd of May where the Council will finalise its position on CFP reform with the Parliament proceeding a vote for CFP reform, likely in June.
- Both the Parliament and Council agree on a discard ban and on delivering MSY - its about how it will be implemented and written into law, the timing over implementation, and flexibility for the industry.
- MEPs voted on 17th April to adopt a ban on discarding unwanted fish of 35 species caught in the Skagerrak (between the North Sea and the Baltic). The ban, to take effect gradually between 2014 and 2016, would be enforced with a remote electronic monitoring system.
We'll be keeping an eye on the progress of the negotiations and summarising the developments here on the Sustainable Seas blog.