24/02/2012 02:18 GMT | Updated 24/02/2012 02:49 GMT

MPs Call On The EU To Hand Back Common Fisheries Policy Powers

MPs have attacked the EU's Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), amid accusations that it's damaging both the British fishing industry and the stocks of fish in the UK's coastal waters.

Perfectly good fish is routinely being thrown back into the sea to meet EU quotas, but the European Commission has refused to allow member states to regain control of their own industries.

The EC is now pressing a head with a new policy on throwing back fish, which MPs say hasn't been scientifically checked properly.

Speaking ahead of a damning report on the CFP, Anne McIntosh MP, chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said, “centralised micro-management by Brussels has failed UK fishermen.”

The committee released a report on Friday on EU proposals to change the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The group of MPs described the CFP, a system for regulating the levels of fishing, as "highly divisive".

Industry experts agreed with the MPs' assessment. Ian Campbell, from Ocean2012, told HuffPost UK that the CFP "has failed on almost every measure and needs radical overhaul".

Most recently, the CFP caused outrage when reports surfaced of dead fish having to be thrown back into the sea in order to comply with quotas. The European Commission has recognised many problems itself:

"Vessels are catching more fish than can be safely reproduced, thus exhausting individual fish stocks and threatening the marine ecosystem. Today, three out of four stocks are overfished: 82% of Mediterranean stocks and 63% of Atlantic stocks. The fishing industry is experiencing smaller catches and facing an uncertain future"

McIntosh has called for member states to repatriate powers over their seas. “Member States must have greater say over fisheries policy in their own waters”, she said, “so we are calling on Government to press for a more ambitious reform that genuinely brings power back to Member States”.

The committee has found a way for countries to reclaim powers. “We have trawled the legislation and found a ground-breaking way to bring back aspects of fisheries policy through amending the EU regulations without requiring a treaty change. Now it’s up to UK Government to make bold moves to bring decision-making over fisheries policy closer to coastal communities and the people whose livelihoods depend on it, “ said McIntosh.

The changes could be achieved by altering the CFP regulations, which the European Commission is able to do without consulting member states. The Committee argues that this approach would give EU nations genuine freedom and responsibility, and would set clear boundaries to the Commission’s role.

“Greater autonomy over fishing policy will be welcomed by many Member States and so we call on the Government to build alliances with like-minded countries to bring about the necessary reforms” she adds.

Stephen Booth, from Open Europe, endorses the committee on the need for a decentralised fishing policy:

“The current one-size-fits-all approach must be reformed to allow member states to better tailor regulation of their waters to local circumstances – the situation in the North Sea and the Atlantic is entirely different to in the Mediterranean and there needs to be far more flexibility to address this.”

Aniol Esteban, Head of Environmental Economics at the New Economics Foundation, brands the CFP "largely ineffective", adding "it has failed to manage fish stocks in the best interest of society".

"There’s clearly a need to decentralise some aspects of the reform and to leave technicalities and certain management decisions at regional and local level. But overarching principles and objectives need to be set at high level."

Echoing its earlier report, the Committee has called for the government to continue with domestic fisheries reform and support for small-scale fishermen.