Joining the fish fight

It’s been four years since Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall kicked off his now famous ‘Fish Fight‘ campaign against the wasteful practice of discarding fish at sea. With the backing of nearly a million Brits and thanks to a firm position of Labour’s MEPs in the European Parliament, the reformed Common Fisheries Policy was finalised last year, hailed as a major success, even by Greenpeace.

Today the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee are voting on measures to bring existing laws in line with the reform, in time for its coming into force in January 2015. Some in the committee who were unhappy with the reform are sadly using the vote to throw the core principles of the reform overboard, through sabotaging and delaying tactics.

In response to this, I’ve written an open letter to Hugh and supporters of the campaign to explain why I will do my utmost today to block amendments which seek to delay or reverse the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

Dear Hugh,

I’m writing to you (and the many supporters of the ‘Fish Fight’ campaign) to say thanks for the continued pressure on this very important matter.

Whilst I am a new face on the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, I am well aware of the hard-fought-for reform that is the Common Fisheries Policy and how big of a success the landing obligation was hailed as (party thanks to my constituency colleague Linda McAvan MEP’s work).

The landing obligation is now enshrined in EU law and fishers across Europe have been preparing for the reform’s implementation for many months. It is our duty on the Fisheries Committee this week to ensure that the process of tidying up previous laws that conflict with the reform is done in the clearest and most coherent way, without delay.

Sadly some colleagues on the Fisheries Committee (disappointingly including some MEPs from the UK) are doing their best to undermine this tidying up exercise and have unleashed an arsenal of amendments aimed at delaying and weakening the reform’s implementation. If many of these amendments were to carry, this would not only create massive uncertainty and delays for fishers across Europe, but the legal confusion could potentially lead to many inadvertently breaking the law.

So, after talking to many constituents in Yorkshire & Humber on the matter, as well as fishers, industry leaders and environmentalists across the country – I will today do my utmost to protect the Commission’s original proposal in the Committee against amendments which seek to delay or reverse the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy achieved last year.

Best regards,
Richard Corbett
Labour Member of the European Parliament for Yorkshire & Humber


This afternoon the European Parliament fisheries committee voted on bringing old legislation into line with the landing obligation and the outcome was disappointing. I used my vote to try to thwart the rearguard action by some MEPs who wish to delay or water down the discard ban’s full implementation, but sadly some of their amendments got through. If taken further, this would leave fishers across Europe with a very confusing situation to deal with come the new year.

This is not the end of the story though, as the Parliament shares its powers of decision with the Council, in this case the national fisheries ministers. The final outcome requires a compromise of both chambers (Parliament and Council). In the negotiations between them — and when it comes to the vote of the whole Parliament, not just the fisheries committee — there is scope to weed out the regressive amendments.

The fish fight is not over — and it is now more crucial than ever to continue to pressure ministers and MEPs for coherent rules that implement last year’s reforms effectively and give fishers clarity in what their obligations are.

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