As Arctic Sunrise set off from its anchor off Lyme Regis last night, all the campaigners on board knew that in Brussels it would be an important night for future of Europe’s fisheries. The main protagonists were (from the Presidency) Irish Fisheries Minister Simon Coveney, European Commissioner Maria Damanaki, and European Parliament rapporteur on CFP reform Ulrike Rodust MEP. By 3.30am an agreement had been struck in Brussels, something that has been picked over by the campaigners on board the vessel this morning, and also by other organisations in their online statements.
The summary of the main points of the deal can be found at CFP Reform Watch here and from the Commission here, and from the Irish Presidency here. The official Greenpeace reaction is here, and a more critical line from WWF Germany (in German) is here. Everyone from Richard Benyon to Green MEP Isabella Lövin seems to be content.
The agreement has a number of good points – major progress on discards (not their complete elimination, sadly, but strongly reduced to 5% of the total of the annual catch – the Council’s position), and strong wording about taking social and environmental concerns into account when allocating fishing resources. The latter is extremely important to support small-scale, local fisheries – precisely the point of Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise tour.
The importance of citizen and organisational pressure has also been vital to these negotiations. All politicians at the press conference in Brussels this morning mentioned it, and as Ocean2012 puts it, anyone who signed Hugh’s Fish Fight played a huge role. I think that perhaps overstates the benefit of one campaign, but the fish reform process does demonstrate that if enough people and organisations care deeply about something, change is possible at EU level.
All of this of course is not the end of the road – as the WWF statement makes clear there are a number of details that remain outstanding. But for now I think some cautious optimism is allowed.