The European Commission has suffered a backlash from EU fishermen over proposals to reduce fishing levels in the western Mediterranean. The Spanish Fisheries Confederation (Cepesca) and the National Federation of Fishermen’s Guilds (FNCP) have condemned the bloc’s plans to reduce the number of trawlers in the region by 2021.
EU fishermen are already bound by red tape under a multi-annual management plan that is part of the controversial Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
In a furious joint letter, the fishing organizations highlight measures already introduced across the western Mediterranean in 2019, including reducing fishing hours – in some cases by more than 20 percent.
Javier Garat, general secretary of Cepesca, said fisheries chiefs understand the need for sustainable fishing methods, but warned that new rules could lead to mass unemployment and business bankruptcy.
He said: “We are aware of the need for sustainable management of resources in the Western Mediterranean, which is why we have scrupulously respected the temporary closures and the reduction of fishing effort during the first year of application of the plan.
“However, in the exceptional circumstances we are going through, our fishermen must more than ever continue to work to overcome the catastrophic socio-economic consequences that this pandemic is causing.”
He added: “The implementation of additional reduction measures in 2021 will only help to undermine the profitability of shipowners and, very likely, lead them to bankruptcy, with the consequent destruction of the fleet and of employment. “.
Basilio Otero, president of the FNCP, also warned that fishermen are already battling the coronavirus pandemic and warned that more regulations could lead to “job destruction”.
He said: “We understand the need to reclaim the Mediterranean and, for this, the sector has taken action.
“In a year complicated by the pandemic from which we are suffering, the sector has adapted to the requirements of the reduction of the Mediterranean plan, but a further reduction in 2021, like the one planned, will lead to the closure and sale of many ships with the destruction consecutive jobs, direct and indirect.
“Having to understand, moreover, that ships that do not comply with European standards operate in the Mediterranean”.
READ MORE: Boris subtly jibes Joe Biden for his intervention in negotiations with the EU in the UK
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier was in London on Monday to resume trade negotiations with his British counterpart David Frost.
Mr Barnier tweeted that he was “happy to be back” in the capital, with the two teams “redoubling their efforts” to a deal.
He listed the three main sticking points – governance, a level playing field and fisheries policies – as the three “keys to unlocking a deal”.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)