Martin Pastoors and Floor Quirijns participated in the European Parliament PECH Committee hearing on the landing obligation, 7 April 2014, Brussels. Martin Pastoors was invited by Ulrike Rodust (EP) to give a talk in the session on technical measures. His talk focussed on the lessons from projects dealing with the implementation of the discard ban for pelagic vessels and on the access to information to allow for future evaluation of the policy.
The other three talks in that session were given by representatives of the fishing industry and generally focussed on the difficulties with the landing obligation for the fishing industry and specifically on the content of the so-called Omnibus regulation that has been proposed by the EC as an intermediary repair legislation to make the technical measures consistent with the landing obligation. The main criticism of the Omnibus regulation was that there has been no consultation with stakeholders and that it maintained a number of rules that were thought to contribute to unwanted bycatches (e.g. bycatch percentage and mesh size combinations). The (few) members of the European Parliament (MEP) present were somewhat taken aback by the amount and content of the complaints by the fishing industry. MEP Stephenson spoke about a "very depressive hearing".
The second bit of the hearing was dedicated to control measures linked to the landing obligation. Here again, a fishing industry representative argued (convincingly) that the control of the specific measures would be next to impossible. In contrast, the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA) presented a plan and timeline with control strategies that would be ready by 1st January 2015.
Overall the impression from the hearing was that the MEPs were not terribly interested in the topic. The handfull of MEPs were in their last week in office, before the European elections that will take place soon. The PECH committee is expected to be reconstituted in July 2014 which basically means that they will start work again in September. This means that many of the issues on the table will not have been resolved by then.
For us, as IMARES Wageningen UR, it is good to be aware about the political discussions that take place on the landing obligation. It shows how strong the role of perceptions and images is in such discussions. It also shows that if we want to play a meaningful role as knowledge providers, we need to target certain groups of actors with specific type of information that can be used in these types of debates.
As a small aside: just prior to the hearing, the EP PECH committee voted on the EMFF regulation: 16 votes in favour, 2 against. The plenary vote in the parliament will be in April.
Some other interesting ideas that we picked up:
- EFCA is doing a project using oil-spill technology to detect slipping.
- EFCA is interested in exploring 'non-coercive' control methods, on the basis of voluntary self-reporting schemes.
- The EC's timeline for the revision of the Technical Measures regulation is: proposal in 2014, Trilogues 2015, entry into force 2017.