Mediterranean fishermen accuse the EU of not caring about their livelihood

MADRID (Reuters) – Fishing groups from southern European countries said yesterday they had withdrawn from EU talks on new rules to help preserve dwindling Mediterranean fish stocks because they felt their voice was being ignored. Thirteen organizations from Spain, France, Italy, Slovenia and Greece said they had sent written contributions to a committee working on the rules, originally proposed in October 2003, but received no reply. The groups say the European Commission has not studied the socioeconomic impact of the proposals and that there is insufficient scientific evidence to support the plans to govern fish stocks. Recently there have been months of deadlock between some of the EU’s Mediterranean countries and non-EU states on the other side of the basin, over measures both sides can take to preserve fish stocks they are chasing. «If the proposed rules come into effect, the majority of fishermen along the Mediterranean will be forced to sign up for unemployment benefits, because they will either be unable to catch anything, or be banned from fishing,» Javier Garat, secretary-general of Spain’s Federation of Fishing Organizations, told Reuters. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization calculates 70 percent of the world’s fish stocks are now at the limit of sustainability or already over the edge. The fishing groups also highlighted the impact of rising oil prices on the sector. «By withdrawing from the consultation the (groups) have sought to avoid examining the proposals in depth, which would allow the committee to once again take unacceptable steps while claiming that they had consulted with professional (groups),» the fishing organizations said in a joint statement.