New European fishing group defends bottom-trawling

Published on
March 25, 2022
Trawl fishing nets drying on a pier.

The European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA), launched in European Parliament on 24 March, 2022 by fishing organizations from 14 E.U. countries, has defended the use of active bottom gears as a sustainable activity and highlighted the valuable contribution that the fishing method makes to the region’s fish supply and economy.

According to EBFA, which claims to represent more than 20,000 fishers and 7,000 vessels, bottom-trawling brings ashore more than 1 million metric tons (MT) of seafood annually, representing 25 percent of total E.U. landings. It also generates almost 40 percent of the sector’s total.

The new alliance also highlights that these fisheries are well regulated, controlled, researched, and widely certified.

Advising that the European Commission and some environmental organizations have a “negative perception” of bottom gears, it warns that these contributions could be lost if the E.U. Action Plan gradually restricts and eventually phases out the use of bottom contacting fishing gears.

The Action Plan aimed at delivering further protection to fisheries resources and marine ecosystems is part of the European Commission’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.

EBFA Chair Iván López van der Veen said the alliance was ready to fight the myths surrounding bottom trawling with science and data.

“We have mapped the seas to identify vulnerable areas [and] we have closed fishing grounds when and where needed. Our vessels are more selective, use less-impacting techniques, and have reduced fuel consumption. We call on E.U. authorities to continue investing in science, management, and innovation. Phasing out bottom gears is not the answer, particularly if the E.U. is serious on the need to reduce dependencies on imported food products,” he said.

EBFA argued that according to scientists, ocean warming, acidification, and rising sea levels are the main threats to the marine environment, and that closing off parts of the ocean to fishing will not solve the problems.

“Trawling to catch fish certainly has an environmental impact, nobody denies that. Everything we eat costs the planet something. But thanks to effective, science-based management, the E.U. and the sector strive to sustainably harvest fish with the minimum impact. Besides, bottom fishing activities are nowadays pretty much fenced to historical fishing grounds,” van der Veen said. “We can do better, and we will do better, but we need policies based on factual, scientific, and peer-reviewed evidence and comprehensive impact assessments. We call on the E.U. to establish clear channels for the fleet to participate in the scientific and technical efforts as equals and experts."

Van der Veen added that the “sector wants to develop a higher level of trust and transparency in our activities to underpin our social license.”

“To phase out perfectly legal fishing gears will not help oceans’ health nor fishers,” he said.

According to EBFA, the good state of demersal fish stocks in the Atlantic has proven that effective fisheries management is the best tool for successful conservation, recovery, and sustainable use of marine resources.

It also argued that the commission should not sacrifice sustainable and certified E.U. fisheries while at the same time accepting large-scale imports from non-E.U. bottom-trawling fisheries.

Photo courtesy of Medvedeva Oxana/Shutterstock
Contributing Editor reporting from London, UK

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