Nature Restoration Law dutch

The new Nature Restoration Law only gives people in cities a good feeling, according to the Chairman of the Dutch Fishermen’s Association. Photo: Nederlandse Vissersbond

Nature Restoration Law gives “People in Cities a Good Feeling” says Chairman of the Dutch Fishermen’s Association

Dutch fishing and the country’s Members of the European Parliament have criticised the vote in the Strasbourg this week which saw parliamentarians vote in favour of the European Commission Nature Restoration Law, albeit a watered-down version of the original proposals.

“The original proposal of the Nature Restoration Act has been watered down by a majority of the European Parliament, but we cannot yet make an overall picture of the points on which this is exactly’, says Durk van Tuinen of the Dutch Fishermen’s Union/PO Delta South.

In June 2022, the European Commission published the Nature Restoration Law . This law is part of Frans Timmermans’ Green Deal and would give countries binding goals to improve nature. The Nature Restoration Law states, among other things, that at least 20 percent of nature must be restored by 2030 and that cities must “green” by planting more trees and more roofs. The Nature Restoration Law will certainly have consequences for the activities of fishermen (and farmers).

On Wednesday 12 July last, the European Parliament voted on the motion to reject the proposed Act. This ultimately failed and later that morning after amendments to the proposed legislation was passed, the Parliament passed the Nature Restoration Law by 336 to 300 votes.

Earlier, the relevant Fisheries Committee (PECH), the Environment Committee (ENVI) and Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI) of the European Parliament voted on the motion to reject the nature restoration law. Because these committees were very critical and the vote distribution was almost 50/50, the bill was significantly amended, amendments, which also had to be voted on.

One of these amendments that was of great importance to the Dutch fishing industry was to remove historic rights within the 12-mile zone from cutters longer than 25-metres. This would have consequences for, for example, fishing for non-quota species.

“It is amazing to see that France is trying to hit Dutch fishermen in particular hard while talks are still ongoing,” says Durk van Tuinen.

Dutch MEP, Bert-Jan Ruissen (SGP), claims that the rules for nature restoration are too drastic: He says:

“It is a good thing that a majority of the EP has watered down the proposal. This gives countries some freedom to choose which needs should take priority. However, we would have preferred the proposal to have been further rejected or further watered down. EU rules on nature restoration are still too rigid, too one-sided and too drastic. Many (rural) areas will be locked, at the expense of food production, housing and even road safety!”

Another MEP from the Netherlands, Annie Schreijer-Pierik (CDA) heavily criticised the text of the Act itself saying:

“I have never seen such a poorly written piece of text as this proposal! Although we did not succeed in sweeping the table, we were able to change and weaken the message and even add an emergency braking mechanism. This means that when food prices and production, renewable energy or social housing are negatively impacted, the emergency brake is applied to the entire law. In addition, funding must be provided to finance whatever objective emerges from the negotiations. And that funding must not come from fisheries-related EU funds!”

Dutch fishing claims that the Commission’s Nature Restoration Law puts the food security of the European Union at risk and that instead of punish farmers and fishermen alike, rather than bringing in legislation that damages their livelihoods and food security. This was backed by Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato of the European People’s Party who spoke out against the wildlife restoration law, saying that the sector has been abandoned and that the wildlife restoration law will endanger food security and their way of life. European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevicius responded that 20% of food is wasted and that a shift to sustainable food systems is needed to ensure food security. Niclas Herbst (EVP) criticized the inconsistency of the European Commission, for example regarding the impact of offshore wind farms on marine ecosystems. Mazaly Aguilar (ECR) called for fishermen and farmers to be protected.

Dutch Fishermen’s Association Chairman Johan K. Nooitgedagt hit-out at the EU’s plans to shutdown economic activity, saying that it wasn’t reflecting reality. He said:

“There is a lot to be said that we need resilient ecosystems for our economic activities and that includes fisheries. However, that does not mean that we should blindly close our economic activities. The phenomenon of this is allowed there and the same is not allowed elsewhere (zoning) simply means that you all go fishing together.

“Also see things in a historical perspective. In the current circumstances, the Afsluitdijk should never have been built. It already appears that building wind turbines in the North Sea does indeed affect the systems that have existed there for thousands of years.

“Are we going to say in 50 years that it should never have been?

“The fishing industry has been used to experimenting with closed areas for years. The Voordelta is the most recent example of this. What people forget ‘on shore’ is that the area itself must also want an improvement objective. I also know areas in the Wadden Sea that have been closed to fishing ‘by fire and sword’.

“Those closures have not yet produced any results and sometimes no further research is done. The Nature Restoration Law should give the city people a good feeling. People in rural areas experience a different perception. Just think of PFAS in the Western Scheldt and near Dordrecht. So that just goes on… in addition to all the other things we don’t know yet or don’t notice enough.”

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