Hudghton (Greens/EFA) - Mr President, in the CFP reform process, I have consistently favoured retaining the founding principle of relative stability – installing the coastal zones as a permanent feature of the CFP at least up to 12 miles and strengthening the role of the proposed regional advisory councils so that real involvement of stakeholders can be achieved. I have also supported in principle proposals to move to a multi-annual, multi-species and ecosystem approach to fisheries management and my views are broadly in line with the Commission's on structural issues. But I believe that all of the positive potential of CFP reform could be in vain if the Commission does not show itself to be willing to really listen to those who are actually affected by fisheries policy. Our fisheries policy must be understood and not just perceived as something being arbitrarily handed down by a
European Union which claims to know better but cannot really prove it. Certainly the CFP to date has not exactly been a resounding success, as we have all acknowledged. That means that the scientific advice has to be up-to-date, it has to be verifiable, it has to be independent and it has to be able to be proved to be so. The cod crisis that has been looming over the North Sea for almost two years has seen fishermen already being subject to real-time closures, to swingeing cuts in fleet size and a variety of technical measures including increased mesh sizes. Their efforts have borne at least some fruit in that the improvement of stocks of cod is only approximately 3% short of the target set by recovery plans. Now, these same fishermen are faced with drastic cuts and a total loss of any confidence in the Commission and its scientific advice, with measures being proposed which could totally devastate already fragile fishing communities. I think the Commission must take into account the specific nature of this cod crisis and not tie its hands with political deadlines. The forthcoming December Council will be the forum for finalising reform proposals and it should not be used for rushing through panic measures for cod and associated species. I urge the Commission to transform its words into real action. Why not establish urgently the first pilot regional advisory council – or management council, as I would prefer – and give it the task of helping to devise measures to save the stocks of white fish in the North Sea. In that way, faith could be restored in the process at the same time. I call on the Commission to think again too when it comes to open access to the North Sea as part of a future CFP. The present crisis only underlines the fragility of that sea and the key stocks in its mixed fishery. Your own words, Commissioner, in a written answer to me said: 'very little is known about the abundance and status of non-quota species in the North Sea but fishing for non-quota species would almost certainly incur by-catches of species subject to quotas'. I say let us get CFP reform right and then use it to develop workable stock recovery plans.