Oceana calls on European Parliament to end destructive deep-sea fishing in the NE Atlantic

A radical change is needed in the way EU manages deep-sea fisheries.

Press Release Date: December 9, 2013

Location: Madrid


Marta Madina | email: mmadina@oceana.org | tel.: Marta Madina

Tomorrow, in Strasbourg, the European Parliament will vote on the management of North-East Atlantic deep-sea fisheries, including a potential end to the use of deep-sea bottom trawls and gillnets, two types of fishing gear that are associated with high levels of environmental damage and bycatch. Oceana urges Members of the European Parliament to vote for this and other strong measures to end overfishing and protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and species.

The current EU regulation on North-East Atlantic deep-sea fisheries management dates back to 2002, and is woefully inadequate. It applies to a minority of the roughly 100 species caught in the region and has led to many stocks becoming overfished, including heavily depleted deep-sea sharks. Critically, it includes no measures to prevent vulnerable marine ecosystems such as deep-sea corals and sponges from being damaged – or destroyed altogether – by fishing gear such as bottom trawls and gillnets.

The EU has a responsibility to sustainably manage deep-sea fisheries, but for more than a decade, it has clearly failed to do so,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.Tomorrow, MEPs can vote to make a lasting difference, by radically reforming the way these fisheries are managed. It is time to bring some light to the depths.” 

Many of the potentially positive measures that will be voted upon have already been approved by the Fisheries Committee of the Parliament, including the obligation for fisheries to follow scientific advice, the requirement for impact assessments prior to authorising fishing, and the reduction of bycatch of threatened species.  In addition to these important elements, Oceana urges MEPs to vote in favour of measures that would:

  • Prohibit harmful deep-sea bottom trawls and gillnets below 600 m depth
  • Protect vulnerable deep-sea sharks and vulnerable marine ecosystems
  • Ensure that all vessels targeting deep-sea species are fully covered by the regulation.

Putting an end to the most destructive types of deep-sea fishing would set a tremendous precedent in the protection of fragile deep-sea resources,” concluded Javier López, Marine Scientist at Oceana.The continued use of such practices simply cannot be justified, given their limited contribution to EU fisheries, their severe environmental impacts, and the existence of alternatives.”  

Despite the need to reform the clearly inadequate current regulation on deep-sea fisheries management, the file has suffered from fishing industry-driven delays in both the Parliament and the Council. After tomorrow’s vote in the Parliament, there will be even fewer reasons for the Council, and some Member States in particular, not to begin their work on this file and the much needed reform of deep-sea fisheries management.

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