The EU Should Return Control of Fisheries to National Governments
The EU sets quotas on the amount of fish that can be caught in its waters, in order to keep the stocks of fish sustainable. But in fishing communities the feeling is that the EU limits fishing too much, and doesn’t understand the needs of the people for whom fishing is a livelihood. Should these limits still be set centrally? Or would national governments do a better job?
The EU is a huge, supranational body passing laws which impact on a local level. The lawmakers cannot know the impact their policies will have on communities and businesses in every area affected by them. If they do not see these effects their judgement will not bee balanced as it cannot take into account everyone who the policies effect. National governments are by their nature smaller than the EU so they have a better chance of understanding the local issues involved.
If the EU did not have overall control of fisheries in the European Union, then a similar body would need to be created to perform this role. Otherwise, every EU member state with fishing interests would have to conclude bi-lateral fishing agreements with every other member state, resulting in a highly complicated system of agreements. National interests could take precedence at the expense of environmentally sound agreements. These agreements would have to be re-negotiated simultaneously in order to ensure a fair quota system, which could be highly bureaucratic and time consuming. Such a system could also disadvantage smaller member states, who could be intimidated by larger member states, with more powerful fishing lobbies. If a web of bi-lateral agreements was not regulated by an overarching body, it could also increase the potential for corrupt negotiating practices.
People, Not Fish
The EU claims to be acting to protect fish stocks. But limiting people’s ability to fish as much as necessary has a major effect on the many communities which are economically dependent on the sea. The livelihood of fishing communities should be the priority, but because the EU is so far removed it cannot see this. National governments are more accountable to their people so are more likely to put their interests above those of the fish.
Overfishing has caused decimation of many fish stocks across the European Union’s waters, and while national governments are more likely to consider the interests of their fishing communities, the EU, in addition to incorporating the views of member states, also considers the broader setting of total stock sizes and catches when setting quota levels for specific species. Fish do not respect national borders, and so it is essential that a supranational body monitors and regulates the management of stocks in EU waters, in consultation with national and regional governments, supported by the advice and guidance of scientists, fishermen and local communities.
Self Interest/ Colonialism
While it's rules may or may not be working inside of it's waters outside of its sphere the EU has been putting financial pressure on less developed countries in Africa to keep their waters open to EU fishing boats. This is instead of trying to end practices such as French and Spanish fishing companies from registering under Senegalese flag, "using subcontractors" and continuing to fish in the areas. This is an example of the European Union acting as a bloc of states in self interest rather then as a genuinely neutral international institution. [[ Michael Davies Venn "Food Colonialism increasing hunger in North Africa, Modern Ghana, Bilaterals.org http://www.bilaterals.org/article-print.php3?id_article=14987 ]]
Returning the regulation of fisheries to national governments will increase the likelihood of adverse impacts on poorer countries from the separate regulations (or lack of them) in each of the member countries of the EU. Competition between the fishing industries of EU countries will cause increased pressure on their individual national governments, some of whom (at least) will yield, imposing weaker rules and/or policing of the behaviour of the industries nominally under their control. Corporations dissatisfied with the regulations imposed by one member government will threaten to relocate to another, taking their profits with them. Any currently questionable practices in the EU's approach to fishing in the waters of external, poorer, countries will be far easier to correct in a single adminstration than if devolved to the individual governments of member states. Fish stocks globally are facing total destruction and industries around the world will fail unless fisheries are regulated in a coordinated and disciplined way. Devolving control can only make the necessary controls significantly more difficult, and improbable.
The Bigger Picture
National governments will be under pressure to increase the quotas of fish that can be caught, because this might help locals in the short term. But in the long term depletion of fish stocks can become irreversible. This will be even more harmful, not just to the fishing industry but to the environment as well. The EU has the level of detachment necessary to see this bigger picture, and act in the long term interests of all involved.
The EU is made up of 27 countries some of which are landlocked and any major marine fleets if any. This means that far from less damage being done to the EU's fish stocks, more damage is being done by the EU's control of fisheries in the long term. Further more countries operating outside of the Common Fisheries Policy have had more success [[Fishing nations should control European fisheries http://www.snp.org/node/15173 accessed 11.05.09
EU control of the fisheries means that all the countries with a stake in fishing are treated the same and are subject to the same regulations. Without this we would have unfair competition as some countries would be much more highly regulated than others. We could also see tension between countries over which areas fall under which jurisdiction.
Benefits of policy
While there have been problems with the policy in the past there have been benefits too. For example the restructuring of European fishing has ensured that fisherman have got fair prices for their catches. It also has provided a fund for maintaining fishing industries (the European Fisheries Fund) which allows states in other countries to focus on other areas. Furthermore the EU has expanded the area where it can fish by negotiating agreements for the EU has a whole rather than single single states competing for national advantage.[[ Civitas "EU Facts: Common Fisheries Policy" http://www.civitas.org.uk/eufacts/FSPOL/AG5.htm Accessed 11.05.09]]
This argument is misleading. Firstly European money is ultimately our taxpayers money which is given by the UK to the EU to prop up an industry that is unsustainable at it's present state and will continue to be unsustainable unless seemingly a large amount of national fishing industries go out of business and either force those affected to either evolve or retire from fishing.
What do you think?