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The European Commission has responded to the advice on its Marine Action Plan from the NWWAC

In a formal response to the North Western Waters Advisory Council’s (NWWAC) advice on the “Action Plan: Protecting and restoring marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries”, the European Commission outlined key points and clarifications regarding the comprehensive plan adopted in February 2023.

Emiel Brouckaert, Executive Committee Chair of NWWAC, received the response from the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. The letter expressed gratitude for NWWAC’s active participation in the recently created joint special group of Member States, which discussed the Action Plan on 06 October 2023.

The European Commission emphasised that the Action Plan is not new legislation but rather an initiative built on existing environmental and fisheries laws. The plan aims to address urgent measures to protect marine ecosystems, increase the resilience of ecosystems to climate change, and secure food security for society.

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While acknowledging that some proposed deadlines may seem tight, the Commission stressed the importance of the measures’ urgency. Biodiversity preservation is crucial for long-term food security, necessitating policy interventions to reinforce sustainability and resilience amid climate and resource pressures.

The Action Plan recognises that fishing is not the sole contributor to marine ecosystem pressures, and all human activities must play a role in protection. The plan leaves the implementation to Member States and stakeholders, highlighting the role of regionalisation in considering diverse features of European seas and fishing activities.

The Commission assured that the Action Plan incorporates input from all interested stakeholders, including advisory councils, with NWWAC’s responses being considered in the formulation. Acknowledging the transition’s associated costs and benefits, the Commission pledged to organise a workshop in spring 2024 to explore different funding options, ensuring fishers are not left alone in the process.

The response addressed specific concerns raised by NWWAC, including seabed protection, dependence on imports, sustainable fishing practices for sensitive species, and marine protected areas (MPAs). It reiterated the need for collaboration between scientists and fishers to develop and implement innovative techniques for sustainable fishing.

The European Commission also emphasised the importance of a fair and just transition, highlighting financial opportunities and funding sources for implementing the Action Plan. The response concluded by affirming the Commission’s commitment to strengthening the knowledge base through robust data collection, research, and engagement with the scientific community.

In summary, the response aimed to provide clarity on the Action Plan’s objectives, underline the collaborative approach needed for its implementation, and reassure stakeholders of ongoing support and engagement in the transition toward sustainable and resilient fisheries.

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