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Lobby to lift ban on fishmeal for ruminants wins more support

Friday, April 25, 2003

The fishmeal and oil industry has won the backing of key members of the European Parliament (EP) Fisheries Committee for the ban on fishmeal in ruminant feed to be lifted. Speaking immediately after a special Public Hearing on fishmeal and oil on Wednesday, April 23, Fisheries Committee and Hearing Chairman, Struan Stevenson, said he would write EU Health Commissioner David Byrne stating his Committee’s view that the ban was unjustified and should be lifted.

“I was astonished to hear from a Commission official at the Hearing that the decision to ban fishmeal was based on politics, rather than science,” said Mr. Stevenson. “This flies in the face of the Commission’s assertion that the decision-making process is driven by science. Now they have admitted that it was a political decision and that it was a bad political decision.”

Mr. Stevenson praised speakers at the hearing, including Ministers from the Peru and Chile, which are the leading exporters of fishmeal, for getting their points over clearly in the limited time allotted. While the Hearing was open to all, including speakers critical of aspects of the fishmeal industry, the great majority of speakers called for the ban to be lifted.

“We are delighted with the result of this hearing,” said Helge Korsager, President of the EU fishmeal and oil manufacturers’ association. “While we are not yet assuming an instant end to the ban, we believe that the MEPs’ support will greatly step up the pressure on the Commission.

“This ban is not justified by scientific evidence or proper risk assessment. Like Mr. Stevenson, I was appalled when a Commission official acknowledged at the Hearing that this ban was a politically motivated, implying that it was window dressing for BSE controls. We believe that the ban has done nothing to help control BSE and we know that fishmeal is not a vector for any TSE. Yet we have a ban that has reduced sales of our healthy high protein feed by 30%, “said Mr. Korsager

Speakers from the fishmeal sector, fisheries protection organizations, the aquaculture feed sector and environmental conservation organization also addressed whether the rapid expansion of aquaculture worldwide had, or could, put pressure on fish stocks and the marine environment.

“There was agreement that rapid growth of aquaculture is likely to continue,” said Dr Stuart Barlow, Director General of the International Fishmeal and Oil Organisation. “However I believe that the fishmeal and oil industry demonstrated that it had not been pressurized into overexploiting fish stocks. At the hearing and at further high level meetings the Chilean and Peruvian delegations detailed the strict management measures in place to protect stocks in their countries.

“In Europe fisheries are also protected and managed and the production from captured fish is integrated with the environmentally positive recycling of trimmings from the food fish sector.

“On the demand side a spokesperson for fish feed manufacturers Nutreco also showed how aquaculture would be able to include a substantial proportion of vegetable proteins and oils in diets, including those of carnivorous fin fish,” said Dr. Barlow.

In his summing up of the Hearing Mr. Stevenson said his Committee had heard differing points of view on issues such as: the effect of increasing demand for aquaculture feed; the impact of the feed fishery on fish stocks and bird life; dioxin legislation; and whether the fishmeal and fish oil route was an efficient way to convert some fish into food on the plate.

“This Committee believes it needs further information on these issues, “said Mr. Stevenson. “We have asked the Parliament's research department, STOA, to prepare a report on Industrial Fishing and the Fishmeal sector. Then the EP Fisheries Committee will hold a further meeting.”

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