Yves Reichling, is the project manager for the Our Fish, Notre Poisson programme at Feedback EU, a Netherlands-based environmental campaign group working for food that is good for the planet and its people.
What does the change you are trying to achieve look like? Why is the EU important?
I coordinate a multi-stakeholder project with partners in West Africa and the UK. Together, we tackle the devastating impact of industrial fishmeal and fish oil production on people, the environment and marine life in West Africa. Many of the fish used by the industry are part of local communities’ staple diets such as sardinellas and mackerel. These fish have become increasingly rare and this is putting food security across the region at risk. We believe the EU has a blind spot in its policies for the ‘feedprint’ of the aquaculture of carnivorous fish. . These products of the ‘blue economy’ are seen as a pristine alternative to proteins from land-based livestock production. They receive more and more support from the EU and investors.
We want to see stricter regulation of the ever-expanding aquaculture industry’s sourcing practices and a stop to the use of whole, wild fish that are fit for human consumption for the production of fishmeal and fish oil. We are trying to raise people's and organisations’ awareness of what is happening in the sector. We want to see action taken to protect ecosystems and support local communities in West Africa. We focus, among other files, on the Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive and EU trade policies to make sure industry is held accountable for its negative impacts.
Which challenges are you facing?
As a small NGO, it is difficult to influence the EU institutions on our own. We operate through coalitions, with NGOs in the EU and around the world working on animal welfare and marine sustainability, for example. There are also mechanisms in the EU machinery that help us to exert some influence, such as the advisory councils that advise the Commission and EU countries on fisheries management issues. It’s still a challenge because of limited resources and capacity. If you are not based in Brussels or Strasbourg, it is quite complicated to keep up to date with what is happening and to act and engage with key decision-makers at the right moment.
One tip you want to share with other public interest advocates?
I learnt from the training that you have to try to follow the whole EU policy cycle. For example, impact assessments at the start of the cycle are just as important as the evaluation phase at the end of the cycle. Early engagement is crucial. For small NGOs, this can be difficult because our approach is project-based and dependent on available funding and (short) timeframes. It may not match the timing of the policy cycle.