The European Association of Fish Producers Organisations (EAPO) have written to the DG MARE with its position paper on deep sea fishing in vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) between 400m and 800m deep along the coast of Spain, France and Ireland.
Last week the Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture voted in favour of the Commission’s proposal to close vulnerable areas to fishing gears which touch the seabed.
In line with the Deep-sea Access Regulation, the conservation measure closes certain zones of the EU deep waters to all bottom gears, ranging from deep-sea long lining to bottom trawling. The measure establishes the closure of 57 vulnerable habitats in the North-East Atlantic, where VMEs, such as sea pens, corals or anemones, are present or where their presence is likely, according to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) scientists.
The EAPO has criticised the decision, telling the Director-General that there are less regulations on deep-sea mining than there is in relation to bottom-fishing.
In the letter addressed to the Director-General, the EAPO writes:
“EAPO took note of the possible implementation of almost 100 new fishing restriction zones due to the presence of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) between 400m and 800m deep along the coast of Spain, France, and Ireland.
“This implementation follows the Deep-sea access regulation published in 2016 where ICES input was needed to list the locations where VMEs are occurring or are likely to occur. The list of locations, as well as 4 scenarios were published on the 5th of January 2021.
“EAPO wishes to express the need for the Commission to consult stakeholders on this issue, even if the list of locations cannot be challenged, but the choice of the scenario and the implementation process should be by mutual agreement.
“The fishing fleet affected by these restriction zones are the ones facing many issues due to the recent crisis. These fleets suffer increased operational costs during the current commodity and energy price crisis, whilst at the same time meeting low fish prices due to the increasing inflation rates. Also, these restrictions come in addition to the increasing pressure fishing businesses are submitted to regarding maritime space: MPAs, Offshore Wind Farms, Brexit… The lack of concertation and preparation will lead to fishing vessels moving towards other fishing zones, and to a potential disruption of markets due to this forced displacement. EAPO regrets to note that the environmental regulations set for fishing activities are much higher than the ones needed for deep sea mining, an activity much more impactful on the ocean seabed.
“EAPO is aware of the exchanges on this subject between the Commission and EBFA and was of a meeting scheduled today. We hope to organise EAPO attendance of this meeting on a short notice in order to ensure that our position is covered.”