Speaking to Dutch MEPs at a meeting of SEVO (The Strategic European Fisheries Consultation), attended by Peter van Dalen, Jan Huitema and Annie Schreier Pierik, EMK vice-president Dirk Kraak said that there is stormy weather ahead and no knowing if fishing companies will survive.
‘Every time the sun wants to shine through the clouds, new clouds are added, caused by influential green organisations which always put us in a bad light. Amazingly, independent research institutions and governments take their statements seriously and even incorporate them into fisheries policy,’ Dirk Kraak said, commenting that there is serious concern within the industry over the regulations set out in the new Common Fisheries Policy, including the Ecosystem Targeted Approach.
‘We see this as a tool that, just like the landing obligation, will make the future for demersal and bottom fishing even more uncertain!. We are also concerned about the exclusion of innovative fishing techniques, such as noise, vibration or electrical stimulation,’ he said, telling the MEPs that Dutch fishermen want Members of the European Parliament to listen more to what fishermen experience at sea, so that proper assessments can be made before new rules are implemented.
‘It’s also important to take information and reports from recognised research institutions (ICES) seriously. Don’t let emotion, unreliable statements from environmental organisations and prestige take the lead when you have to vote,’ he warned.
‘We need long-term perspective and clarity We are convinced that if the EU listens to fishermen and helps with meaningful measures, we and the fish stocks will benefit more. More participation by active fishermen is desirable. This allows policy to be better aligned with practice at sea and vice versa. A round of consultation can prevent many misconceptions,’ he said and commented that only the countries bordering it should have a vote in decision-making that relates to the North Sea.
‘We are aware of the responsibility we bear with regard to the health of the North Sea and the fish stocks. We hope that future generations can continue to fish and that we can continue to deliver food in a sustainable manner.’
Dirk Kraak commented that the demand for clean and sustainable energy is currently high on the agenda, but criticised the approach governments have taken to this.
‘It is incomprehensible to fishermen that governments can accelerate the construction of offshore wind farms under the guise of a climate crisis. In this way, governments can cleverly circumvent agreements, such as on ecosystem degradation, that are laid down in the OSPAR Convention,’ he said.
‘What disappoints us even more is that our best fishing grounds are presented as a gift to energy multinationals. That is why we demand proper monitoring of these new industries at sea and, in case of doubt, stopping construction and ensuring that our natural resources are always available.’
The fraught question of the landing obligation is never far away, and Dirk Kraak pointed out that no fisherman has any interest in destroying his own future, stating that the current regulations ensure that stocks will deteriorate.
‘The enforced and unnecessary retention of juvenile fish ensures that they will never become breeding adults,’ he said.
‘Fishermen have been committed to selectivity and catch limitation for many years, and many of our stocks are on the safe side of MSY. We believe that we should continue to use the route of selective fishing gear and methods as the basis of keeping our fish stocks healthy. That means that we must work together to introduce innovations so that support is created prior to implementation.’
Dirk Kraak left the MEPs in no doubt that there is concern over plans for Natura 2000, and there is a deep lackof clarity over exactly what the green organisations want to restore or protect.
‘It has been found in practice that closing areas usually works counterproductively. The dynamics of the North Sea cannot be captured in specific areas. Moreover, fishing as a top predator has been part of the North Sea for centuries and there are areas that have been cultivated for centuries, creating an interaction between fishing and nature. This is a circular process. This interaction has long been able to gain a place in the dynamics of the North Sea. If there is a change, unwanted effects may occur,’ he said, and reserved his closing comments for the uncertainty around the UK’s proposed departure from the EU.
‘We urge you to defend our interests in a final Brexit. Make agreements with the UK so that our fishing grounds remain accessible for us,’ Dirk Kraak said.
‘Current European fisheries policy constantly presents fishermen with new legislation that is counterproductive and misses its goal. The support within the fishing sector is minimal. I have already spent 37 years at sea. The North Sea has never let us down. Every week I still enjoy going to sea. But because of pointless regulatory pressure, devised by people who are far from reality, my fishing company is going down. I wish you a great deal of wisdom,’ he said.