Commission toughens rules for deep-sea fishing
By Anne Eckstein | Thursday 19 July 2012
In a draft regulation presented on 19 July, the European Commission proposes to phase out the use of non-selective fishing gears. Its aim is to guarantee sustainable exploitation of deep-sea stocks in the North-East Atlantic and to reduce unwanted by-catches and negative impacts from the use of such gears on fragile deep-sea habitats.
Deep-sea stocks are caught in deep waters beyond the main fishing grounds on the continental shelves. Deep-sea fishing was not placed under detailed management based on fishing opportunities (total allowable catches or TACs) until 2003 but these stocks are taken as by-catches in many fisheries. Technical measures have already been put in place to restrict the use of certain fishing gears in the deepest waters or to ban fishing in certain zones where seabeds are extremely valuable in terms of biodiversity, but these measures alone are not proving effective at ensuring protection of the zones and species concerned. The Commission nevertheless notes that there are fishing vessels that specifically target these species and that the sector’s future can be assured only if their activity is managed sustainably.
That is precisely the aim of the new draft regulation
that establishes a framework for fishing for deep-sea species in the North-East Atlantic in EU waters, including the outermost regions of Spain and Portugal, and in international waters. It toughens the licensing system for deep-sea fishing using bottom trawls and/or bottom-set gillnets, licenses that will expire no later than two years after the regulation enters into force. After that deadline, such licences will no longer be issued or prolonged. In addition, annual fishing effort restrictions will replace catch limits and member sates will have to implement support measures to prevent any increase in overall catch capacity or by-catches as well as measures to prevent discards.
The Commission proposes to give a boost to this change of policy by financing a study on ways of testing less harmful fishing gears, in cooperation with companies that practice deep-sea fishing, and plans to steer the sector towards fishing techniques and strategies that have less impact on these fragile ecosystems.
It also proposes specific requirements for collecting data on deep-sea fishing activities, while acknowledging that fishermen are already cooperating with scientists to increase knowledge of deep-sea ecosystems. Any adjustments needed to the implementation of these measures could receive EU financial support.
The vessels directly concerned are mainly French, Spanish and Portuguese. These vessels operating in deep-sea fisheries are not only large trawlers off the West of the British Islands (Hatton and Rockall Banks) but also include those carrying out small-scale fisheries with longlines, which do not use bottom trawls, in some of the EU’s outermost regions (eg Azores, Madeira, Canaries). The big trawlers are mainly based in Brittany and Normandy (France) and in Galicia, Asturias and the Basque country (Spain).
The Commission notes that it does not intend to introduce a total ban on bottom trawling in EU waters. Deep-sea fisheries, both targeted and by-catch, will be defined on the basis of overall catch weight per day of a mixture of precisely listed species. The only segment that will be phased out is the targeted fisheries. Other commercial fisheries will not be affected.
Its aim is to guarantee sustainable exploitation of deep-sea stocks in the North-East Atlantic