CLERKS WANT THE BULGARIAN SPRAT TO BE THE BIGGEST IN THE WORLD
Calm days for the employees of the Executive Agency of Fisheries and Aquaculture (EAFA) have obviously irreparably passed, especially after the publicly expressed dissatisfaction of people in the branch from their work. The business warned that Bulgaria is about to lose EUR100MN from the European funds if amendments to the national plan for the sector's development till the year 2013 are not urgently made. The people in that sphere are adamant that the above-mentioned plan has been worked out awkwardly and improvidently by the ASA Research Consulting company, owned by Kocho Mihailov.
In April the parliamentary Commission for Combating Corruption considered the alarms against the agency's Executive Director Erman Zankov. The BANKER weekly wrote then about his exotic business trips and unusual purchases. A lawsuit was initiated against him in the Sofia City Court, but did not put an end to the dubious operations in the EAFA if representatives of some of the biggest Bulgarian companies in the sector could be believed.
The Association of Fish Products Manufacturers BG Fish sent an open letter to the Minister of European Affairs Meglena Kouneva, informing about the meeting held on May 24 with Michael Roitman, head of a sector and Stefanos Samaras, Director of the Fisheries Directorate General of the European Commission (EC). The letter reads that Bulgaria would certainly get a red card from Brussels if no urgent measures are taken regarding EAFA's style and method of work.
The prepared plan caused agitation due to its difference from reality and the fact that it was based on untrue statistical data. And the time left for eventual corrections is not much. If it is not presented in Belgium's capital till September the fisheries sector will remain one of the problematic spheres for our country, mentioned in the EC's last monitoring report.
The failure is to a certain extent logical, having in mind that the consultancy company, contracted to draft the document had not at all taken into consideration the opinion of those it concerns. The two biggest exporters - Reya Fish and PAL BG - accounting for 95% of Bulgaria's trout exports - have hardly been missed by chance. And in the sphere of fishing the companies whose vessels account for over 80% of the entire catch in the Black Sea have been disregarded. In the part about catch, processing and export of marine gastropodes to Japan and Korea all the five firms occupied in such activities on an industrial scale in our country, have been neglected. Nobody has asked the opinion of the market leaders in the production of fish cans and mussels' processing either.
The chaos is also aggravated by the inadequate legislative regulations, Boyko Tsenov, head of the branch organization points out. Masters of sea vessels have sent protest letters against the new passport and visa regime for fishing in the exclusive economic zone, introduced by the latest amendments to the Law on the Ministry of Internal Affairs. On each sailing out of Bulgaria's territorial waters they are obliged to pass the customs for seals and on their return to pay an import duty on their catch. That completely contradicts maritime law, Mr. Tsenov comments. He is adamant that the problem would not exist if the agency had intervened when discussing the legal amendments. Now we are the only country in the world where the catch of fish within its own economic territory would be regarded as import and both fishermen and processing enterprises will be suffering financial loses.
There are still more stupidities in the new regulation setting twice higher standards for the catch of fish and aquacultures. According to EAFA's clerks who justify themselves by European requirements, the size of the fish which is mostly caught - the sprat - should be at least 14-15 cm, and it can't reach such sizes.
The mess spreads as well on the introduction of new forms of fishing tickets for anglers. The fishing season has already begun but the people do not know yet how the ticket will look like, said Valentin Simov from the Union of Hunters and Anglers. Neither have the basins been specified where fishing is allowed. In Bulgaria there are at least 200,000 anglers, but only half of them buy tickets. The others are poachers. But instead of trying to introduce control the State hampers legal anglers as well, Mr. Simov says.
Insiders of the Association of the Fish Products Manufacturers underline it is not their work to introduce order in this country. Representatives of the branch are now redrafting the national plan, which is in fact the obligation of the EAFA. Moreover, it should be born in mind that processing enterprises in the sector are the best prepared to meet the challenges of the free European market. All of them have been modernized and are among the first in the foods and drinks industry to have introduced the system for analysis of risks and critical control items.