Tag Archives: European Parliament

Europe supports Arctic Sanctuary

GP01T5F

There was good news this month when the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the creation of an Arctic Sanctuary covering the vast high Arctic around the North Pole, giving official status to an idea that has been pushed for by Green activists and campaigners for several years.

The proposed sanctuary, lying outside of Exclusive Economic Zones, would cover “one of the largest and least exploited areas on Earth: a 2.8 million square kilometer zone of the global commons,” writes Neil Hamilton, the Senior Political Advisor Polar with Greenpeace Norway. “That would be the biggest conservation zone in existence, protecting fish stocks, ice-dependent species, and a huge variety of cold water species.”

Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global Arctic Sanctuary for several years, including gathering some 5 million signatures from around the world, because there has been rising interest from governments and industries to exploit the once inaccessible wilderness for fish and fossil fuels.

The resolution notes that “climate changes in the Arctic will have a major impact on coastal regions globally, including coastal regions in the European Union, and on climate-dependent sectors in Europe such as agriculture and fisheries, energy, reindeer herding, hunting, tourism and transport.”

In addition to supporting an Arctic Sanctuary, the European Parliament’s resolution would ban fisheries in the high Arctic seas “until the establishment of appropriate regulatory mechanisms and protection.” It also calls for “strict precautionary regulatory standards” when it comes to fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the region.

Last December, Gazprom become the first energy company to begin pumping oil out of the Arctic seabed. In response to this the European Parliament expressed “strong concern regarding the rush for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic without adequate standards being enforced”.

sta_donate_carousel

Vital European debate on wasteful fish discards

Fish Fight march, London, Britain - 25 Feb 2013

Campaigners protest outside Westminster. Photo: Rex Features

Crucial negotiations in Brussels in the next few days will decide whether the EU’s wasteful fish discards policy will come to an end.

Currently, millions of healthy fish back are thrown back into the sea each year after they have been caught, because of the way the EU’s quotas are managed.

But a ban on discards has gathered huge public backing since the TV chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall made it a personal campaign more than two years ago, highlighting the waste of the EU’s rapidly dwindling fish stocks. He has gathered the support of the UK fisheries minister, Richard Benyon, who will fight for the ban in an EU meeting starting on Monday.

This week’s battle will be intense. For the opponents of a ban, including Spain and Portugal, this is the last chance to scupper proposals that would mean the biggest shakeup of the EU common fisheries policy since it was brought in four decades ago.

Fearnley-Whittingstall, whose FishFight campaign has gathered more than 850,000 supporters, said that it was “crunch time” for the reforms that are needed to end the “crazy system”. He said: “We need a strong discard ban and a legally enforceable commitment to restore fish stocks to sustainable levels. To any sane person, wasting half a million tonnes of fine edible fish every year is simply unacceptable.”

A number of countries and MEPs want to keep the discards system because it allows their large fishing fleets to maximise profits. Fishermen discard parts of their catch when they have netted species for which they do not have a quota, because it leaves more room to take home the species they are after, or when they have exceeded their quota they often throw back smaller specimens. They also throw back lower-value species for which there is less commercial demand.

All of these measures allow fishermen to maximise their profits, taking ashore only the most valuable section of their catch and throwing the rest away – even though the discarded fish are healthy and edible. Reform would mean they have to land the whole catch, which should help to stop the plunder of the EU’s dwindling fish stocks.

If the reformers win the day, there could be a discards ban in place for many important species within a year, with the rest phased in over the next three to five years. Fishing rights would also have to be set according to scientific advice as to the “maximum sustainable yield”.

Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “The French and Spanish may have learned to profit from this crazy system down the years, but now it has to end. Kowtowing to their calls for compromise and threats of blocking reform is simply not an option.”

Action to save bees: EU to ban killer pesticides

ID-10062553

Great news! After months of campaigning by environmentalists, the European Commission has taken action to protect bees by restricting the use of harmful chemicals in pesticides.

Fifteen countries voted in favour of a ban and, even though the vote was split, the Commission imposed a two-year restriction on three neonicotinoids, which research has shown to harm bees  – and the UK cannot opt out.

The ban means neonicotinoids  will not be used on crops that are attractive to bees and other pollinators, there will be a ban on the sale of neonicotinoids to amateur growers.

The Commission says it wants the moratorium to begin no later than 1 December this year. After today’s vote, EU Health Commissioner, Tonio Borg, said “I pledge to do my utmost to ensure that our bees, which are so vital to our ecosystem and contribute over 22bn euros (£18.5bn; $29bn) annually to European agriculture, are protected.”

The UK was among eight countries that voted against the ban,  arguing that the science behind the proposal is inconclusive.  Four nations also abstained. But Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director Marco Contiero said the vote “makes it crystal clear that there is overwhelming scientific, political and public support for a ban. Those countries opposing a ban have failed.”

A report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in January concluded the pesticides posed “a high risk” to pollinators, including honeybees.

There was intensive lobbying in the run-up to Monday’s vote. Protesters against neonicotinoids rallied in Westminster on Friday and campaign organiser Andrew Pendleton of Friends of the Earth said “leading retailers have already taken action by removing these pesticides from their shelves and supply chains – the UK government must act too”.

Hours to ban bee killers!

Image

In just hours, the European Union will vote on whether to ban toxic pesticides that are killing bees around the world and threatening our food supply.

The big corporations profiting from the pesticides are lobbying furiously to defeat the ban and the campaign group Avaaz has just heard that key governments are about to cave in – unless they feel the sting of public opinion!

Avaaz says: “Bees are disappearing around the world at alarming rates. Because bees pollinate our crops, experts are warning that these mass deaths pose a catastrophic threat to our food supply.

“Thankfully, numerous studies have now identified the likely culprit: a certain class of noxious pesticides. An official EU report found that banning them could solve the problem, but pesticide giant Bayer is trying to convince our leaders to ignore the science to protect their profits.”

“Over 2.5 million of us have signed the petition that made this vote possible – and now it’s time to tell our politicians that they must side with science to save the bees this week. Let’s flood the inboxes of our EU Agriculture Ministers, drown out the corporate lobby, and make sure our governments saves the bees and our food. Over 300,00 people have so far!”

Visit the Avaaz website to send a message to the EU Ministers of Agriculture, and urge them to support this crucial proposal.

Landmark victory for fish fighters across Europe

cfp-votewin-email

The European Parliament voted on Wednesday to ban the wasteful practice of throwing away fish at sea in a victory for green groups after more than two years of campaigning.

There are hopes that these changes to the controversial EU Common Fisheries Policy can become law by next year. MEPs voted for the reform package by 502 votes to 137 after being bombarded with complaints, following a series of high-profile campaigns from environmentalists, fishermen and celebrity chefs.

Campaigners are angry that EU boats in the North Sea have to throw away up to half of what they catch to stay within their quotas. The reforms package include:

  • Rebuilding fish stocks to sustainable levels
  • Setting catch limits in line with the best scientific advice
  • Banning discards
  • Priority access to those who fish in environmentally beneficial ways
  • Tightening the rules on how EU vessels fish in distant waters.

“This is really excellent news,” said the chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who spearheaded a Fish Fight campaign that mobilised hundreds of thousands of people to oppose discards. “It was a nerve-racking morning. We’re really grateful to the thousands of Fish Fighters across Europe who emailed MEPs over the last few days, and helped to head off a last-ditch attempt by some politicians to fatally weaken the discards ban.”

Greenpeace welcomed the MEPs’ vote, saying the reforms were a “momentous shift away from overfishing” and would help to promote small-scale and low-impact fishing methods, which usually cause less environmental harm.

A Greenpeace spokesperson said: “National governments that stand in the way of reform, like Spain and France, will find it increasingly hard to act as proxies for a handful of powerful companies, with no concern for the long-term wellbeing of the oceans or the majority of fishermen.”