BRUSSELS, July 13 (UPI) -- Europe's fisheries won't survive under current policies and a new package of reforms will offer much-needed changes, the European Union's maritime affairs chief says.
The European Commission was set to produce broad new proposals to modify the EU Common Fisheries Policy at a time when dwindling stocks are forcing member nations to import more and more of their fish supplies.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki warned, "If we don't act, we will lose one fish stock after the other."
She told a European Parliament fishing task force last month "the prospects without change are grim," warning that failure to restock EU fisheries would create a permanent ecological void in the oceans that other species would fill.
Also, the fishing industry would continue to lose jobs, which would affect the processing industry, transportation, ports, packagers and retailers.
"And all of us, as consumers, will end up with less fish on our plates," Damanaki said.
Recent economic modeling, looking to 2022, indicated that merely continuing the present Common Fisheries Policy would result in only 9 percent of the EU's fishing stocks remaining sustainable.
Meanwhile, Europe's fishing fleets would remain at overcapacity despite shrinking a further 15 percent, thanks to technological advances. Thus overfishing would continue, as would the need for continued government subsidies for the industry.
"Maintaining the current level of subsidies would simply postpone the inevitable and would do this at a high cost to taxpayers," Damanaki said, adding such subsidies come at "a heavy environmental cost and throw us deeper into the vicious circle."
The commissioner said last month at the GLOBE World Oceans Day Forum in London her reforms will seek to make legally binding a commitment to reach "maximum sustainable yield" by 2015 -- an approach is based on a long-term strategy whereby catch rates are fixed, thus enabling fish stocks to reproduce so that exploitation "can occur in sustainable economic, environmental and social conditions."
The EC, she said, will also seek to devolve responsibility for enforcing the "nitty-gritty" of fishery management to regional groups of nations that border specific fisheries and to put an end to the "unethical" practice of discarding fish.
The reforms to EU policy are indeed much-needed, agreed a report issued Monday by the British think tank New Economics Foundation, which said European consumers are increasingly reliant on imports to feed their fish habits.
Britain, for instance, would run out of fish by July 16 if it were to only consume home-caught fish for the entire 2011 calendar year, NEF said. That's three weeks earlier than last year's date of Aug. 4 and six weeks earlier than in 1995, showing an increasing reliance on fish from abroad.
The problem with current policies is they promote overconsumption of fish in a bid to help the ailing industries rather than strictly limiting the amount caught, report co-author Aniol Esteban said.
"Fish stock restoration deserves more attention than the promotion of fish consumption," he told the British newspaper The Independent.
Rather than focusing on the "the short-term costs" that would result from strictly limiting access to dwindling fisheries, policymakers need instead to "give priority to the long-term benefits that healthy marine resources will provide for the environment, the economy and society," Esteban said.