(AE) FISHERIES: EP endorses compromise on deep-water fishing

11 December 2013

Brussels, 10/12/2013 (Agence Europe) – On Tuesday 10 December in Strasbourg, the European Parliament (EP) approved the compromise reached in the fisheries committee allowing deep-water fishing to be continued (for at least five years) while providing a better framework for demersal fishing and measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (see details in EUROPE 10957). The EP rejected an amendment from the Greens and GUE/NGL reintroducing the Commission's proposal banning deep-water trawling at depths of over 600 metres.

During the plenary debate the day before, Maria Damanaki, European Fisheries Commissioner, expressed regret that the EP had not supported the gradual ban on deep-water trawling which, she said, would nonetheless have affected only 17% of the ships involved that kind of fishing. She called on the Council to begin examining the proposal.

The European Parliament adopted without change the report by Kriton Arsenis (S&D, Greece) on that dossier. The rapporteur called for his report to be referred back to committee so that an agreement might be negotiated in first reading with the Council. The EP, however, decided otherwise and approved the report. The Council is expected to examine the Commission's proposal (which provided for a two-year ban on bottom trawling). Then, depending on its position, a second reading will perhaps be required.

According to the compromise reached, at the latest four years after entry into force of the regulation, the Commission will assess the impact that this kind of fishing has on vulnerable marine ecosystems and species. If its assessment shows that stocks of demersal species are not exploited in full respect of the principle of maximum sustainable yield (MSY) and that vulnerable marine ecosystems are not safe from adverse effects, then the Commission will submit a proposal five years at latest after entry into force of the regulation to ensure that fishing authorisations for vessels targeting deep-water species (with bottom trawlers or bottom gill-netting) will expire and not be renewed, and that all necessary measures will be taken regarding deep-water fishing gear, including for bottom longliners, in order to ensure protection of the most vulnerable species.

Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems. Member states should use the best scientific data in order to determine the vulnerable marine ecosystems and notify the Commission of them. A list of vulnerable areas will be established by the European Commission. Deep-water fishing with bottom fishing gear will be banned above those zones (“freezing the footprint”). There will be a rule to allow such areas to be avoided – any vessel that comes across a vulnerable marine ecosystem should stop fishing and move to a minimum distance of five nautical miles away from that area.

Data collection. Member states should establish an observer programme allowing data to be collected on deep-water species and on vulnerable marine ecosystems that are come across.

No ban in two years.

The plenary rejected an amendment submitted by the Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL Groups requesting that fishing authorisations for vessels using bottom trawling gear or bottom set gillnets at a depth of more than 600 metres should expire at the latest two years after entry into force of the present regulation.

Jean-Paul Besset (Greens/EFA, France) said the parliamentary majority has preferred to close its eyes to the destruction of a marine heritage that dates back several millennia. Fishing with a bottom set longline is far less harmful to the marine environment and generates six times as many jobs, he said. He went on to conclude that, despite the massive and unexpected social phenomenon (750,000 people signed the petition supporting the ban), most parliamentarians are no more aware of the ecological imperative.

Environmental NGOs are disappointed by the EP's vote. They campaigned for the Commission's initial proposal to be adopted, and Justine Maillot of Greenpeace said: “The European Parliament's approach to deep-sea fishing is at best half-hearted. It failed to ban the devastating and indiscriminate practice of bottom trawling. It is astonishing that subsidised fishing vessels can continue to plough the seafloor with monster nets that crush everything in their path”.

Safeguarding thousands of jobs.

Thanks to the compromises, said Isabelle Thomas (S&D, France), “we are achieving the challenge of maintaining vulnerable activity in the 10% of zones maintained for deep sea fishing”. There are at least 758 vessels, she said addressing the commissioner, and therefore thousands of sea fishermen who will be able to keep their jobs, she concluded. Blue Fish, the European association for promoting sustainable and responsible fishing (fisheermen, scientists and local representatives in over nine European countries) welcome the outcome of the vote. The Parliament's decision allows a regulatory and political framework to be set in place to heighten the protection of the oceans while safeguarding the social and economic balance of the European coastal territories, said Olivier Le Nézet, Blue Fish President. (LC/transl.jl)

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