Bottom trawl and gillnet ban proposed

24 Jul 2012
The EC has published a proposal to phase out bottom trawling and gillnet fishing. Credit: Sarah Lelong/Marine Photobank

The EC has published a proposal to phase out bottom trawling and gillnet fishing. Credit: Sarah Lelong/Marine Photobank

The European Commission has published a legislative proposal to phase out deep-sea bottom trawling and bottom gillnet fishing within two years in European waters.

This regulation would result in a ban of deep-water trawling and gillnetting below 1,000m depth in the entire North-East Atlantic and for certain fisheries below 500m. It will apply to EU waters and vessels flying EU Member States' flags in NEAFC (North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission) high seas waters.

The species targeted by deep-sea fisheries exhibit biological characteristics that make them very vulnerable to overfishing (slow growth, late sexual maturity, and low fertility rates). Fishing opportunities, per the proposal, will be consistent with maximum sustainable yield and when it is not possible to identify this rate, they will be fixed according to the precautionary approach using the best scientific information available. In some cases, restrictions of fishing activity when there is no sound knowledge of the stocks status will be applied.

“This proposal must go through, it underlines the inappropriateness of targeting vulnerable species and the associated damage that this form of fishing has on deep-sea marine habitats and non-target species. Adopting it will be a clear signal that Members of the European Parliament and EU Fisheries Ministers take responsibility to protect nature and its resources for future generations” said Alfred Schumm, leader of WWF’s Global Smart Fishing Initiative.

“The phasing out of deep-sea bottom trawling and bottom gillnets sets a major precedent in the protection and sustainable use of the deep-sea, which is in line with United Nations guidelines and resolutions,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana Europe. “Most of the species exploited in the deep sea are associated with sea mounts and deep-sea coral reefs, which are vulnerable ecosystems that are extremely sensitive to the harmful impact of these types of fishing practices.”

However, the presidents of Europêche, the EAPO and the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Fish, Javier Garat, Sean O’Donoghue and Giampaolo Buonfiglio, have said that they share major concerns and criticisms regarding the method and approach used throughout the process, which they say seems to have been subjected to strong external pressure.

They said that they are surprised that such a proposal may have been tabled without taking into account scientific recommendations from ICES regarding the status of stocks of deep-sea species.

They stated that it was concerning to see how intent Commissioner Maria Damanaki seemed to be on banning this practice although the main species fished by EU vessels, particularly in waters to the west of Scotland and in the Celtic Sea, conform with the objective of Maximum Sustainable Yield, according to ICES.

Should the proposal to gradually ban bottom trawling soon be adopted by the Commission, Europêche, the EAPO and Cogeca have said that they would call on the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to show their good sense and responsibility and urgently react on behalf of the EU to a decision that, if taken, would have serious consequences.

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