Environment Committee of EU Parliament calls for an end to deep-sea fisheries mismanagement

Deep-sea fisheries in the North-East Atlantic contribute only 1% of European catches but cause disproportionate environmental damage

Press Release Date: March 20, 2013

Location: Madrid


Oceana Web | email: webadmin@oceana.org | tel.: 202.000.0000

Today, in the first European Parliamentary vote on a proposal to amend the conditions for deep-sea fishing in the North-east Atlantic Ocean, the Environment Committee adopted an ambitious text that would set these fisheries on the path to sustainability. Oceana applauds Committee Members for supporting a set of comprehensive measures to ensure that deep-sea fisheries are managed responsibly, and that their impacts on vulnerable marine species and ecosystems are minimised.

The opinion adopted by the Committee applies a precautionary approach to deep-sea fisheries management, and reverses the burden of proof by proposing that deep-sea fishing should only be allowed when and where it is demonstrated to be sustainable.  Other key elements include:

  • measures to ensure that deep-sea fish stocks are restored above levels which can produce the maximum sustainable yield (MSY)
  • catch limits for deep-sea fish stocks to be set in strict accordance with scientific advice
  • the phasing-out of deep-sea bottom trawls and bottom-set gillnets, two types of destructive fishing gear that also capture high levels of by-catch
  • management measures for the conservation of highly vulnerable species
  • the identification and protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems

“To date, European management has failed deep-sea fisheries, leaving 100% of supposedly managed stocks fished beyond safe biological limits, and legally allowing the destruction of vulnerable ecosystems such as deep-sea coral reefs and sponge beds,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe. “By adopting this report, the members of the Environment Committee have built on the Parliament’s ambition to reform of the Common Fisheries Policy and have clearly stated that fisheries mismanagement must become a thing of the past.”

Published last July, the European Commission proposal to overhaul deep-sea fisheries management in the North-east Atlantic constitutes a significant step towards the sustainable use of deep marine resources, and is greatly strengthened by today’s vote. The Fisheries Committee is expected to adopt its position in April and the plenary vote is set to take place in June.