European Parliament votes to increase transparency regarding fishing activities, but also to weaken marine conservation ambition

Press Release Date: January 18, 2024

Location: Brussels


Natividad Sánchez | email: | tel.: +34 687 598 529

MEPs vote for more transparency to prevent the entry of illegal seafood on the EU market, but also endorse destructive fishing within protected areas and compromise the fight against overfishing in European waters

Oceana deplores key votes at the European Parliament on the Common Fisheries Policy and the Marine Action plan, which reveal a worrying trend to ignore the science in favour of short-term economic gains for industrial fishing. With these being among the last decisions on ocean issues before the EU elections, the outcome is a poor legacy of this Parliament to halt marine biodiversity loss in Europe and secure a prosperous future for coastal communities. This stands in contrast with the Parliament’s vote to strengthen import controls and create transparency registers to fight illegal fishing.

“Today’s votes on the Common Fisheries Policy and the Marine Action Plan show that the European Parliament is not living up to the EU’s claims that it is an international ‘ocean champion’,” said Vera Coelho, deputy vice president of Oceana in Europe. “On the Marine Action Plan, the Parliament is backtracking on its previous positions calling to tackle the impacts of destructive fishing like bottom trawling, and is contradicting international standards on Marine Protected Areas. The European Commission must stand by the Action Plan and step up enforcement of EU laws where Member States aren’t complying with them to deliver EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy targets.”

The Parliament’s plenary has approved a report by its Fisheries Committee on the EU Marine Action Plan that supports destructive fishing techniques. This regressive narrative was not discussed in the Environment Committee and undermines the Parliament’s own position on biodiversity targets. With European elections looming large on lawmakers’ horizons, such mixed messages make it difficult for citizens to know where the Parliament stands on marine conservation and fisheries management issues.

The plenary also backed a report on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) which calls for a review of some of the policy’s key objectives, diverting attention from the poor implementation by EU Member States of this keystone piece of legislation. If fully implemented, the CFP can end overfishing, support the transition towards low-impact fisheries and mitigate the climate impacts on fisheries. Instead of reopening it, EU countries should better enforce it and allocate fishing opportunities to low-carbon, low impact vessels.

Increasing public information to fight illegal fishing

Despite these major setbacks, the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of a report on the impact of illegal fishing on food security. The text asks for more transparency, through the creation of comprehensive databases that include the identity of fishing vessel owners, to prevent hidden financial gains from illegal fishing. The report also asks for harmonised and effective import controls in all Member States to prevent illegal fishing products from entering the EU market.

“The European Parliament is calling on future EU leaders to prioritise the fight against illegal fishing and those who profit from it. The EU must cut ties with companies that profit from illicit activities. It’s now the European Commission’s and national authorities’ turn to act and establish comprehensive databases with information on the ultimate owners of fishing vessels, regardless of the country in which these vessels are based or where they fish”, Coelho added.