During the plenary session of the European social dialogue committee for sea fisheries held last week, ETF and Europêche adopted a joint resolution establishing benchmark principles aimed at better regulating the proliferation of sustainability labels certifying social conditions on board fishing vessels. The intention is to avoid social-washing labels while stressing the importance of the ILO “Work in Fishing” Convention C188 as guardian of human and labour rights of fishers at sea, which cannot be replaced or substituted by private schemes.
Today, after long hours of discussion in Luxembourg, EU Fisheries Ministers reached an agreement on the catch limits for 2022 for the ten main commercial stocks in the Baltic Sea. Despite the huge quota cuts in the last years for key species such as cod and herring in certain areas, the poor environmental status of the Baltic Sea, and not overfishing, is affecting the sustainability of these stocks. Nevertheless, Ministers have decided to further reduce fishing opportunities for Western and Central herring as well as for Western cod. On the positive side, the Council has agreed to increase fishing opportunities for plaice, sprat, Bothnian herring and Gulf of Finland salmon. Despite these increases, the reality is that 2022 will still remain an extremely challenging year for the Baltic fishers.
European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) and Europêche have published new Guidelines on the medical examinations of fishers, paving the way for the harmonisation of standards for health and fitness checks across Europe and worldwide.
European social partners in the fisheries sector, ETF and Europêche, call on the European Commission to support Member States in developing a specific COVID-19 vaccination protocol for fishers, adapting and prioritizing their access to the vaccine. Considering their recognition as essential workers and the particularities of the fishers' workplaces and working patterns, the social partners have put forward practical guidelines that can help accelerate the process.
This morning, the European Parliament adopted its position on a new set of rules meant to revise the Union Fisheries Control System. In general terms, the Parliament position improves the proposal from the European Commission modernising control and enforcement measures without penalising or creating excessive bureaucracy to fishers. Particularly positive were the changes introducing more flexibility on the margin of tolerance for weight estimates done by fishers on board and the exemption of engine power monitoring devices for fisheries subject to catch limits. However, there is a huge elephant in the room, the mandatory installation of cameras to control a failed EU policy, the landing obligation. In this context, Europêche hopes that governments address this “big brother” issue within the Council in the following months.
At the Plenary meeting held yesterday, the EU Social Partners in the Fisheries Sector – Europêche, Cogeca and ETF - welcomed the presentation of the Parliamentary draft report “Fishers for the future: Attracting a new generation of labour to the fishing industry and generating employment in coastal communities” of the Member of the European Parliament, Manuel Pizarro. While acknowledging the report as an important step in the right direction, social partners call on the policy-makers to recognize the key social dimension of fishing, thus improving the health and safety of fishers and attracting youth to the sector.
As part of the Green Deal, the European Commission has announced the goal to increase the EU’s offshore energy production twenty times to achieve climate neutrality by 2050. The European Commission aims to meet this target while at the same time managing the maritime space sustainably. A recent study  commissioned by the EU Executive body puts forward a set of recommendations for positive interactions between fisheries and offshore wind farms. The fishing sector is sceptical about the main findings of this study which downplays the conflicts and echoes the myth of a so-called “happy co-existence” built by the wind energy sector. Likewise, the authors neglect the negative environmental impacts of windfarms and even more so the socio-economic consequences on the fishing communities.