Statement by Mrs. Emma Bonino, European Commissioner for Fisheries, on the occasion of the initialing of the agreement between the European Union and Canada on Fisheries (Greenland halibut)April 18, 1995
"I am delighted to announce that, following the respective internal consultations, the European Commission and the Canadian negotiators have initialed an agreement to solve the longstanding Greenland Halibut dispute. After a lengthy and difficult negotiation process, we have agreed on a text which includes a number of proposals the European Union and Canada will jointly submit to NAFO as soon as possible, possibly as early as May. It has been a painstaking job, for which negotiators deserve congratulations.
Let me briefly resume the main points of the agreement:
a) Canada has agreed to repeal the provision of the Regulation of 3 March 1995 that subjected vessels from Spain and Portugal to certain provisions of the Coastal Fisheries Protection Act and prohibited these vessels from fishing Greenland halibut in the NAFO Regulatory Area.
b) The Canadian Attorney General has confirmed in writing the decision, on ground of public interest, to stay the charges against the vessel ESTAI and its masters. Therefore, according to the agreement, the bond, bail, and catch or its proceeds will be returned to the master. The EU will sign the agreement after this has happened.
c) Both sides acknowledge that this agreement in the basis for a submission to be made jointly to the NAFO Fisheries Commission to establish a Protocol to strengthen the Nafo Convantion and Enforcement Measures.
d) In order to strengthen Control and Enforcement measures, the European Union and Canada have agreed to implement a Pilot Project for observers on board and satellite tracking. We have decided to propose that each contracting party shall require its vessels operating under NAFO Convention to accept observers. Satellite tracking devices on some 35 per cent of the vessels operating in the areas shall also be established as rapidly as realistically possible.
e) Finally we come to the allocation of 27.000-ton TAC of Greenland Halibut. Let me recall that we never put this figure into question, as its acceptance was a sign of our commitment to a responsible management of stocks.
For 1995, taking into account the record of catches realized by the EU fleet, the latter will be entitled to fish 5.013 tons more from April 16.
From 1996 onwards, the share of the Community shall be fixed at least 55.35 per cent of the TAC in area 3LMNO (the area comprises all the fishing grounds where EU vessels exert their fishing activities)
The European Commission has several reasons for satisfaction at the end of what the press has throughout called the "Fish War with the Canadians":
1) The rule of Law has been restored on the High Sea. European fishermen are again rightly and fully entitled to fish in the Grand Banks off Canada's coast, including the Nose, the Tail and the Flemish Cap.
The agreement clearly states that European vessels, operating in full respect of International Law and NAFO regulations, may not be prevented from fishing. Reestablishing security and International Law was our primary aim during all these negotiations. We wanted all arrangements to be multilateral. We have all reasons to think that we have accomplished these tasks.
2) The deal we have agreed is a new a concrete step towards a better joint conservation policy. Canada and the European Union have confirmed their commitment to protect fish stocks. In the multilateral framework of NAFO, we will jointly push for a strengthening of control and inspection rules. this is a sound victory in itself. For fish and for fishermen.
3) During the negotiations, the Union has obtained that Canada step down from the position it maintained during and after the last NAFO meeting in February. Then the EU was allocated 12 per cent of the 27.000 tons TAC decided last autumn. It was an unacceptable decision. Now we have well over 40 per cent of the TAC. It is a major accomplishment.
4) The last element I would like to draw the attention to is the way we have been conducting negotiations during the past month. We never threatened anybody. We never broke the Law. We always acted in the framework of NAFO regulations and in full respect of International law. We always acted in the framework of NAFO regulations and in full respect of international Law. Since we have now come to an agreement, I must confess that I feel proud of the way we behaved.
You see that it could be easy to claim victory. But, believe me, this is not what we want. The winners are International Law and Conservation. We have just given them a hand.
One last word is needed. We are coming out of a difficult time of conflict and this is good news.
But we must not forget that the coming years will be difficult as well. The Fish sector is going through a serious structural crisis because there are not enough fish for so many fishermen.
In the future, we shall reorganize the whole sector to reach a better equilibrium between resources and the fishing fleet. It won't be easy. It will be costly, in terms of financial intervention and jobs.
But if we want to maintain fishing activities for future generations we have no other choice.