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European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries
17th North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference/Reykjavik
3 July 2012
Dear Ministers, Dear Colleagues,
I am very pleased to be here in Iceland with you today representing the European Union.
First of all, I want to extend my appreciation to our host, Minister Sigfússon, for his hospitality and for the organisation of this year’s North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference.
From its very inception 17 years ago, the North Atlantic Fisheries Ministers Conference has given us a genuine opportunity to discuss the really relevant issues touching on fisheries in this part of the world.
When we started with this forum, we were just at the point of ratifying the UN Agreement on Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Species, an agreement, which has proved to be fundamental in our approach to sharing fish stocks.
Today, our challenge is to apply that Agreement fully and in good cooperation.
Even then, we were addressing the issue of illegal fishing activities on the high seas, and this too remains at the forefront of the issues on which I want to focus in the EU as a matter of priority.
The North Atlantic is our largest marine ecosystem and harbours our largest and most valuable fishing grounds.
Last year in this forum, the impacts of fisheries on marine ecosystems and how to achieve sustainable fisheries were addressed.
In the two main regional fisheries management organisations in this part of the world, NAFO and NEAFC, I have fully supported the work to ensure the preservation of vulnerable marine ecosystems, especially deep sea habitats, with their precious cold water corals.
And where large and shared fisheries are at stake, fisheries that are economically as important as they are politically, it is indispensable that we all work together. It is only if we work together that we can achieve sustainable results and results that are good for our industries. There is no alternative to cooperation.
So we need to use this forum to exchange new ideas with one another and set the fisheries agenda in the North Atlantic for future years.
Regarding this year's Ministerial meeting, I would like to make one point that is of key importance to me: our vision to move towards eliminating the very wasteful practice of discarding.
Discarding has direct and harmful impacts on sustainable stock exploitation. It casts a negative image on the fishing industry.
In the context of the Reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, the EU Council of Ministers recently endorsed a discard ban and it is to be seen now how the European Parliament will respond.
I strongly believe that we need to give a strong signal that the wasteful practice of discarding must, and will, come to an end in the coming years.
As part of this same Reform process, I also aim to see the Union moving towards exploiting fisheries using maximum sustainable yield, allowing our industry to increase both productivity and profit – a win / win situation.
Outside the Union, I also want to see our fishermen operating with the same rules as those applied inside the Union.
This is also directly linked to our reformed market organisation, which will include new labelling and traceability rules to ensure a level playing field for both our fishermen and for our neighbours
So all in all, I am convinced that this conference is not only useful to us in developing our policies, it is also highly relevant to what we are doing in today’s world – we need to act coherently and we need to know that we share the same goals.