Voices 03/02/2014

Eat, buy and sell sustainable fish!

In the past we assumed that whatever we did, the oceans would find a way to regenerate. But we went too far. We became entangled in the vicious circle of overfishing: less fish in the sea, more fishing, even less fish in the sea.

Breaking it took years of preparation and negotiations. We had to get 28 countries to agree to a quantum leap reform. And we succeeded.

We totally turned the policy around by

- stopping overfishing,

- putting an end to discarding,

- stopping top down decisions, making room for regionalization and giving the stakeholders a role in decision making

- for the first time ever we have sustainable standards in our international policy.

It is in many ways a 'sea change'. Even the most Eurosceptic analysts called it a "triumph of common sense". This would not have been possible without the support of one of the most environment and business-conscious nations on earth: this one.

Germany has been an ally from day one: I would therefore like to express my sincere thanks to the German government, who was a staunch supporter of this reform and has shown leadership. For the first time ever the European Parliament was part of the decision making and here is the key Member, Ms Rodust, who deserves her own special "thank you!", because she helped to bring about this reform. Furthermore I would like to thank also the colleagues in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture for their tireless efforts to get this reform concluded. Last but not least the German fishing industry deserves a big thank you, because they looked at our proposals and while they admitted that there are hurdles that need to be overcome, they came onboard early on.

You, the citizens of Germany, can be truly proud of all these people, as they helped us convince other nations to embark on real change. This country always knew, that healthier fish stocks bring higher catches, more money for those who fish and more jobs onboard and onshore.

And now that we are implementing this reform is it again Germany that is leading by asking that we achieve sustainable fishing for Baltic herring already in 2014. I can only support this. It is not a matter of the environment versus the economy. In this business, the environment is the economy. There is no separating the two. Now Fisheries Ministers of Europe understand this and just one month ago they unanimously agreed fish quotas at sustainable level. The decision means we have tripled the number of fish stocks fished at sustainable level in 2014 to 27 and for 2015 we can reach 30 fish stocks fished sustainably. If you consider that we started with 9 fish stocks only a few years ago this is a massive achievement.

But there is another actor in this historic reform: you.

I'm talking of course of public pressure. Your alliance between fishermen, retailers and citizens, your campaigns, your TV documentaries have given boost to make this reform a reality and you deserve my thank you.

Now that you have conquered, you must continue your leadership. As informed citizens, as members of the industry, as retailers, restaurant owners, or as consumers: please sell, buy, cook and eat only sustainable fish.

How? You may ask. You just have to survive a few speeches. Then you can go off and taste what sustainability means.

Now you have the power to make our mountain climb worth the effort: your choices can change the face of fisheries.

At the end of the day, our policy and your consensus are just like fish and fisherman, environmental protection and economic sustainability: "inseparable"

di Maria Damanaki