DG MARE has responded to NWWAC concerns over the European Commission’s policy on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems
European Commission Responds to NWWAC Concerns on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems
In response to a letter from the North-Western Waters Advisory Council (NWWAC), the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries addressed concerns related to the ICES advice on Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) and the revision of the list of areas where VMEs occur or are likely to occur.
The letter, dated November 16, 2023, highlighted various issues pertaining to ICES advice on VMEs from 2021 and 2023, as outlined in the report of the Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation (KFO). The Chairman sought clarification on how the Commission would address these concerns.
In the response, the Director-General of the Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries informed the NWWAC that during the MIACO meeting on January 19, 2024, ICES announced the initiation of a specific process to address and correct methods of data collection for VMEs and analyses in 2024. ICES invited Advisory Councils and stakeholders, including the NWWAC, to share their views on the current ICES evidence and advice related to VMEs, as well as actions to be taken in 2024 and beyond.
The Director-General expressed hope that the NWWAC would actively participate in this new process, working within the framework and under the steer of ICES.
Regarding the revision of the list of VME areas, the response referred to a wider socio-economic assessment of VME closures scheduled to be undertaken by the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) in 2024. An invitation was extended to Member States to participate in a meeting in February, guided by STECF, to conduct the assessment. The STECF and the European Commission anticipate significant engagement and evidence-based inputs to gather information at an individual fishing unit or fishery level, complementing the 2023 analysis done by STECF at the fleet level.
The response concludes by expressing the Commission’s hope that the provided information addresses the NWWAC’s questions and concerns regarding the continuous stakeholders’ engagement process on the VMEs file. It emphasised the commitment to continued fruitful cooperation between the European Commission and the NWWAC.
The communication signifies ongoing efforts to involve stakeholders and address concerns in the management of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems, reflecting the collaborative approach in shaping fisheries policies in the region.