protected deep-sea ecosystems in EU waters

The European Commission ends bottom fishing in vulnerable marine eco-systems after a four year campaign by eNGOs

The European Commission has announced an end to bottom fishing in vulnerable marine eco-systems after a four year campaign by environmental non-governmental organisations (eNGOs)

In a statement today the Commission announced:

In line with its ambition to protect nature and restore biodiversity, as set out in the European Green Deal and the Biodiversity Strategy , the Commission has taken action to close access to 87 areas susceptible to all bottom gear in Community waters of the North-East Atlantic. Based on the Deep Sea Access Regulations and advice from scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the new regulations protect 57 vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems while aiming to cause minimal disruption. possible fishing activities. 

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Speaking on the closures, Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:

“Our oceans and fisheries depend on healthy marine ecosystems. By closing bottom fishing gear access to 17% of the area between 400 and 800 meters deep in Community waters of the North-East Atlantic, we are delivering on our commitment to protect and restore life navy and four years later we are finally implementing one of the key provisions of the Deep Water Access Regulation. It is our duty to our society, to future generations and especially to those whose livelihood depends on marine resources. I am grateful for the commitment and efforts made by the fishing industry to support this new chapter in ocean conservation.”

The total closure area corresponds to 16,419 km2 reserved for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems below 400 metres. This represents 1.16% of Community waters in the North-East Atlantic. The closures concern vessels equipped with bottom gears, ie. bottom trawls, dredges, bottom gillnets, bottom longlines, pots and traps. The measure was developed following extensive consultations with Member States and stakeholders, including the fishing industry and NGOs, over the past two years. 

After the ban on bottom trawling below 800 meters, which was introduced in 2016, these closures provide additional protection to help restore vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold-water coral reefs, seamounts and deep-sea faults. 

The implementing act adopted today will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and will be immediately applicable to all vessels from EU Member States and third countries operating in the waters of the EU. 

Reacting to today’s news, eNGO, BLOOM founder Claire Nouvian reacted enthusiastically to the Brussels announcement:

“It’s a day of bliss. The remarkable deep-sea ecosystems beyond 400 meters will FINALLY stop being crushed by huge industrial gear that pulverizes thousand-year-old corals, century-old sponges and sharks, fragile finned “Dumbo” octopuses and myriads of extraordinary species, which have been the collateral victims for more than 30 years of the insatiable greed of industrial fleets.”

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Commission ends bottom fishing in protected deep-sea ecosystems

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