‘More Fish in the Seas’ from the Greens/EFA has called for greater restrictions on fishing activities
A political environment report presented to the European Commission has called for more restrictions to be imposed on the fishing industry in the European Union.
The Green/EFA member Ms Caroline Roose of the European Parliament Fisheries Committee (PECH) presented the report ‘More Fish in the Seas’ to the EU Fisheries Commissioner at a plenary session of the European Parliament where she said the report compiled with the help of NGO’s (non-governmental organisations) and fishers, called for more marine protected areas (MPAs), the end to destructive fishing techniques and setting a maximum economic yield (MEY) to replace the current maximum sustainable yield (MSY) mechanism in the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
In her opening remarks she said, “I think it’s extremely important to look at these issues. All the fishermen and women that I meet understand that they depend on what is happening in the sea. ‘More fish in the sea’ is tantamount to attaining our environmental objectives and targets, but it’s also about more of our diversity. It also means that fishermen and women can continue fishing in the long term.”
One of her suggestions from the report is to put more restrictions on fishing such as dredging, beam trawling, trawling and seine-netting: “We have to also rein in destructive fishing gear,” she said.
Last year, 2020, the EU missed targets on the exploitation of fish stocks, where all fish stocks were supposed to be at a sustainable level. Ms Roose suggested changing the mechanism on how total allowable catches are calculated:
Quotas have to be set in a transparent manner and we should never go beyond scientific recommendations or the levels that will allow us to achieve MSY.
“I also looking at whether knew indicators could be relevant, such as MEY (maximum economic yield), which is at a lower level than MSY. It would improve the resilience of fish stocks, and it would also make fisheries more sustainable in the medium term and long term in order to draft this report.”
“She also suggested creating more MPAs and increasing monitoring of these areas: She said, “I have been to marine protected areas and in one case I saw a trawler fishing nearby. I’ve heard a lot said by fishers and a lot of marine protected areas are only protected on paper so there is no monitoring.
“Now proper management plans are different. Methods are being used and associations and scientists have reached the same conclusion. We’ve protected 10% of European seas, but less than 2% are actually protected in practice, or only those are really protected. 30% of European water is covered by Marine protected areas. This is exactly in line with scientists’ recommendations, but this is going to be a vast greenwashing operation if we don’t have proper checks and controls.”
The report also pointed to pollution being a major issue:
“Fish stocks are also of course impacted by different sources of pollution and climate change. Wastewater treatment, cigarette butts thrown into the sea or that come from the beach, sunscreen and so on.”
In response to the report, EU Commissioner for Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius said, “In the past decade we have achieved significant progress to increase fish stocks in the Northeast Atlantic, where the rate of fishing is on average, already close to the maximum sustainable.”
He ruled out changing the current MSY mechanism and replacing it with the MEY system because he believed that it would cause to much unnecessary work when the current mechanism installed is working.
The Commissioner did agree with improving fisheries management and making improvements elsewhere. He told the meeting:
“Yes, in order to further move towards more sustainable fishing in all sea basins, I agree with the report that we need to improve our fisheries management to end overfishing. We need to expand our network of marine protected areas, improve their management, and tackle other environmental factors beyond fishing that threaten our fish stocks.
“When speaking about improving our fisheries management, I fully agree that more data collection is necessary.
“We need to do everything to better protect sensitive species and sensitive habitats. This is clearly required by the technical measures’ regulations.
On the issue of introducing further regulations, he said:
“The Commission will present later this year a report on the implementation of this regulation and, as announced in the Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan, to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems, which we announce in divide versus strategy, and for which the road map will be published very shortly.
“I agree with the report that we need more sea areas covered by marine protected areas with a more efficient management and control system in order to deliver in the interest of our fishermen and women and to protect marine biodiversity.
“I hope honourable Members that the final report, as it will be voted on Thursday will keep his high level of ambition in terms of sustainable fishing and healthy fish stocks regarding the use of the maximum economic health advocated in the reap.
“I am more cautious at this stage. The priority is reaching maximum sustainable yield for all stocks, which is also the agreed legal objective of our current common fisheries policy. I thank you all for your attention.
“Since the overhaul of the CFP in 2013, real progress has taken place, but the target set haven’t been attained and the situation is urgent. The situation varies greatly during the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. I went to Brittany and Normandy and met fishermen and women.
“It’s our fishermen and women who go to sea every day to supply us with healthy food from the ocean are the first to benefit from more fish in the waters, but abundant life in the ocean also plays a crucial role in our fight against climate change. The ocean has absorbed more than 90%. Of human generated heat in the last century.
“It will only keep its ability to protect us if its ecosystems are healthy and rich. With lots of fish in its waters. I welcome most of the findings of this report. They support the Commission’s approach under the European Green Deal, the biodiversity strategy for 2030, and the Common Fisheries Policy.”