EU reaches agreement on deep-sea fisheries
A consensus has been reached by the European Parliament, the Council and the European Commission regarding how to best protect deep-sea fish, sponges and corals while also preserving the viability of the European fishing industry.
This latest agreement updates the previous EU rules placed upon deep-sea fisheries – which were last amended back in 2003 – bringing them up to par with the sustainability goals laid out in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
"I am glad that an agreement was reached today. As Commissioner in charge of both fisheries and the protection of the environment, I believe that we have achieved a balanced compromise that will protect our deep-sea environment and deep-sea fish stocks while finally putting an end to the uncertainty faced by European fishermen looking to run a successful and sustainable business," said EU Commissioner Karmenu Vella in a prepared statement.
Among the provisions applied in the agreed upon text stipulates that fishers may only target deep-sea fish in areas where they have fished in the past (their so-called 'fishing footprint'), thereby ensuring that pristine environments remain untouched. Moreover, trawls below 800 meters will be banned completely in EU waters, and areas with vulnerable marine environments (VMEs) will be closed to bottom fishing below 400 meters, according to the EU; to further protect VMEs, fishers will also have to report how many deep-sea sponges or corals they catch and move on to other fishing grounds in case a certain maximum amount has been reached.
Organizations such as Europêche have come forward criticising the ban on 800 meter trawls, arguing that the measure lacks scientific basis.
“According to Europeche the ban, agreed yesterday by Parliament, the Council and the European Commission is arbitrary and only responds to political interests and not to real environmental threats. The ban is included in the regulation of deep-sea fisheries agreed upon yesterday,” said the group in a statement.
Europêche continued: “The fishing body however welcomes other measures agreed for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) and for better management of deep-sea species. Many of these respond to demands promoted by the sector itself or are in fact already existing measures regulated by the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC). These include total or temporary closure of areas where there are VMEs; freezing the footprint of fishing activities in deep waters and exploratory fishing in new areas (upon presentation of an impact assessment on the ecosystem).”
The new agreement offers alternative solutions in the wake of a rejected proposal put forth by the Commission in 2012, which was shot down by the Council and the Parliament.