Meeting between NGOs and Finnish EU Presidency officials re December Council

Published on November 20, 2019

The Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and the Fisheries Secretariat invited the European campaign directors of The Pew Trusts (Mr Andrew Clayton) and Oceana (Mr Javier Lopez) to come to Helsinki to meet with Mr Risto Lampinen the Director of Fisheries and with Mr Teppo Säkkinen special advisor to Minister Leppä to discuss their concerns about overfishing in the North East Atlantic and North Sea and the total fish catch levels which are due to be decided in the EU Council of Ministers meeting in Brussels on 16-17 December 2019.

Whilst Finland as a nation does not have large fishing interests in those waters, the issue of overfishing, its effect on the ecology and health of the oceans and on the seafood on our tables, are, or should be, matters of concerns for us all.

Mr Lindsay Keenan from the Fisheries Secretariat praised the work done by the Finnish presidency team at the previous October Council meeting at which decisions on Baltic fishing opportunities for 2020 were taken, noting that whilst many NGOs were critical of some aspects of the outcomes from the meeting, the positive role played by the Finnish presidency staff in trying to ensure that the members of the council took decisions with sustainability and CFP (Common Fisheries Policy) requirements uppermost in their minds was well recognised.

Mr Tapani Veistola from Finnish Association for Nature Conservation thanked the senior members of Finlands EU Council Presidency team for making the time available from what is clearly a very busy schedule. He also thanked Mr Clayton who travelled from London and Mr Lopez who travelled from Madrid to attend the meeting, and noted that their willingness to travel such distance is a testament to the seriousness of the concerns. Both gentlemen have deep and long term knowledge of these fisheries and they were able to convey a number of principles and specific issues for particular stocks that should be taken into consideration when these decisions are taken in December. They carry with them the voices of many other organisations and EU citizens.

Going into the December Council it is already unfortunately clear that the proposal made by the European Commission includes levels of fishing for some stocks which are above scientific advice and which do not take sufficient account of issues including on-going discarding (the practise of dumping unwanted fish over the side of the vessel). The NGOs pointed out that there is no room this year for the kind of late night negotiating up of catch levels that has been a feature of this EU Council meeting in previous years. Minister Leppä and his team will have a lot of work to do to maintain a focus on sustainability and the CFPs legal deadlines to end overfishing. We thank them for their commitment to do so.

In order to maintain a focus on the serious issues affecting our oceans the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation and the Fisheries Secretariat have also invited Dr Rashid Sumaila, Professor and Director of the Fisheries Economics Research Unit at the University of British Columbia Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries to Helsinki to present his recent and widely acknowledged working paper – Ending Overfishing Can Mitigate Impacts of Climate Change.

The report finds that “overfishing and climate change are not mutually exclusive problems to be addressed separately,” as both are severely impacting ocean health and putting marine ecosystems and the goods and services they provide to communities at risk. Ending overfishing would give the ocean respite from human pressure, making it more resilient to the effects of the climate crisis, while helping to restore critically valuable marine ecosystems.

Dr Sumaila is squeezing in the visit to Helsinki 29 November en-route from Canada to COP 25 in Madrid at which the issue of the climate crisis and its effect and interaction with world oceans will be one important feature following the recently released IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate.

The after work “Ocean & Climate Cocktail” event and takes place Friday 29th November at the Maijansali, Oodi between 4.30pm to 7pm. Dr Sumaila’s presentation starts at 5.15pm. The event is open and all are welcome. If you plan to attend it would helpful if you can register here.

NGOs meeting with Finnish Fisheries Officials. Picture by Tapani Veistola of Finnish Association for Nature Conservation