- MEPs want to limit unwanted catches and reduce impact on the environment
- Restrictions on the use of new fishing methods, such as electric pulse trawling
- Specific regional rules to be adapted for each sea basin to support fishermen
Common EU rules on how, where and when one can fish in the EU, including prohibited fishing methods and species, were backed by MEPs.
The Fisheries Committee approved draft laws on Tuesday to limit unwanted catches, especially of juvenile fish..
Currently there are more than 30 different EU regulations laying down technical measures for fisheries, which has proved highly complex and arguably inefficient. MEPs agreed to cut red tape to improve compliance.
The new regulation would introduce common measures on fishing gear, methods and allowed species for all EU waters, whilst at the same time allowing for regional, tailor-made measures to be adopted.
The EU-wide rules designed progressively to reduce juvenile catches would include, inter alia:
- prohibited fishing gear and methods, i.e. toxic substances and explosives;
- general restrictions on the use of towed gear and static nets a list of fish and shellfish species fishing for which is banned restrictions on catches of marine mammals, seabirds and marine reptiles, special provisions to protect sensitive habitats, and
- a ban on practices such as high-grading (discarding low-priced fish even though they should legally be landed) in order to reduce discarding.
Innovative fishing methods
MEPs want the STECF (Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries) to assess innovative fishing gear, including electrical “pulse trawls” which are used to drive fish up out of the seabed and into the net. This assessment should cover trial periods of at least four years, they add. Trial use would be restricted to no more than 5% of existing vessels in that métier (i.e. using a specific type of gear in the same way). Use of such gear would be permitted on a commercial scale only if the assessment shows that it would not lead to “direct or cumulative negative impacts” on the marine environment.
Regional measures and flexibility for EU fisheries
Regional measures that deviate from the baselines would be introduced for the seven EU sea basins: North Sea, North Western Waters, South Western Waters, Baltic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Black Sea and waters fished by EU boats in the Indian Ocean and West Atlantic.
These measures would cover inter alia minimum conservation reference sizes, and closed or restricted areas. Member states and the Commission would have 18 months from the entry into force of the regulation to regional rules on mesh sizes.
To grant enough flexibility to EU fishermen and support their work, it would be possible to deviate from these regional rules. This could be done either via a regional fisheries multiannual plan or “delegated acts” by the EU Commission. Member states could submit joint recommendations to this end, and MEPs ask them to “base their recommendations on the best available scientific advice”.
- Métier: a group of fishing operations targeting a similar assemblage of species, using similar gear, during the same period of the year and/or within the same area and which are characterised by a similar exploitation pattern.
Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES) said: “Regionalisation would allow moving away from micro-management and rigid technical rules towards a more flexible, results-based management approach and would bring local authorities other stakeholders closer to the decision making. Our main objective is to give the chance to fishermen and to regional authorities to feel as the main actors in the management of resources, while ensuring that specific targets for progressive reduction of juvenile catches are set, based on science and adapted to the realities of each fishery. I believe this is a good compromise, ambitious but at the same time realistic and operational.”
The draft text was adopted by 20 votes to 5, with 2 abstentions. The text will now be tabled to a plenary vote in order to get the mandate and start negotiations with the Council..
Across all Union sea basins and non-Union waters in which Union vessels operate there are more than 30 regulations which contain technical measures. Currently there are three detailed technical measures regulations enacted under the ordinary legislative procedure covering the main sea basins in Union waters. Two previous Commission legislative proposals on the conservation of fisheries resources through technical measures in 2002 and 2008 failed to go through.
The annexes of the regulation would contain regional measures for the North Sea, the North Western Waters, the South Western Waters, the Baltic Sea, the Mediterranean, the Black Sea and the Union waters in the Indian Ocean and the West Atlantic.