France, Spain and Italy unite to breach EU fisheries law
A weak political deal on EU western Mediterranean multiannual fisheries plan carries risk of stock collapse in the world’s most overfished sea
Press Release Date: February 19, 2019
The European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries (PECH) formally adopted today a political agreement on a multiannual plan for demersal species (mostly found at the bottom of the ocean) in the western Mediterranean Sea. The plan will not end overfishing by 2020 but will now extend the sustainable fishing deadline to 2025, therefore failing to rebuild dwindling fish stocks and breaching EU fisheries law (Common Fisheries Policy). Eighty percent of western Mediterranean fish stocks are overfished in waters belonging to Italy, France and Spain, including popular species such as hake and mullet.
“Today’s outcome is far from sorting out the Mediterranean overfishing crisis. It shows that French, Spanish and Italian governments, under strong influence from national fishing industries, are consciously allowing overfishing, resisting science-based fisheries management and preventing the development of low-impact fleets in the region. To top it all, they are outrightly ignoring EU fisheries law,” said Nicolas Fournier, Policy Advisor at Oceana Europe.
The vote considerably weakens down the European Commission’s proposal. Politicians in the European Parliament’s PECH Committee introduced broad derogations to the proposed measures, such as:
- Ignoring scientific advice by hardly reducing fishing effort;
- Increasing the maximum number of fishing hours per day;
- Weakening bottom trawling restrictions in coastal waters, and
- Eliminating the possibility to introduce a catch limits system
“Elections are around the corner in the European Parliament and also in some of the countries affected by this plan. Today, more than ever, choosing to overfish is a politically inexpensive move. It’s also likely that none of today’s decision-makers is planning to be involved in Mediterranean fisheries in the future. No accountability is what triggers environmental disasters,” added María José Cornax, Policy and Advocacy Director of Oceana Europe.
The first EU multi-annual plan in the western Mediterranean Sea creates a much stronger incentive for achieving sustainable fisheries in this region than the current incoherent national plans, which have allowed continuous overfishing for decades now.
For Oceana, given the critical situation of the Mediterranean Sea, EU law-makers simply cannot adopt a weak fisheries management plan and risk the future and food security of iconic species, such as hake or red-mullet, whose exploitation rates exceed more than ten times sustainable levels.
The next step for the plan will see Members of the EU Parliament approve the final deal in a plenary vote scheduled for March/April.
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