The North Sea Advisory Council (NSAC) has written to the Director of Fisheries Policy Atlantic, North Sea, Baltic and outermost regions calling for the EU Commission (COM) to approach Norway over the decision to ban beam trawling in its EEZ.
Dutch beam trawler owners are distraught that as of 01 June this year (2022), their boats will no longer be permitted to operate in Norway’s waters where they have traditionally fished. The NSAC write:
“The North Sea Advisory Council (NSAC) members resolved to write to you after having recently learned of the new set of technical regulations implemented unilaterally by Norway as of 1st January 2022, stipulating the ban on the use of beam trawlers by March 2022. While the ban on beam trawling has since been postponed to June 1st, this decision presents a major issue for the beam trawl fleets that have traditionally carried out their fishery in the Norwegian zone, as well as, through displacement, for many other fisheries in the North Sea.”
The NSAC also claim that the Norwegians have compromised the setting of a new unified Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) for a number of species which has until now been set separately for the North Sea and the Skagerrak region. The possibility of Norwegian authorities reserving certain areas for particular types of fishing gear have also raised concerns.
In their letter to DG MARE Director Fabrizio Donatella, the AC writes:
“To our dismay, these substantial changes in conditions for the performance of fishery seem to have been taken forward without any, let alone timely, consultation with the parties affected by these provisions. The representatives of the fishing industry have not been invited to discuss the contents of the new legislation and have not been notified in due course that the new regulation is set to step into force. The general impression is that the same approach, severely lacking in transparency, has been applied to the European Commission. The NSAC finds this to be a major breach of formal and pragmatic cooperation between two friendly partners.
“We would like to stress that, while not in any way questioning or challenging the right of the Kingdom of Norway to decide on the rules regarding the performance of the fishery in their respective economic zone, the NSAC would have expected to have been given the opportunity to contribute, in a constructive way, to the introduction of the new technical measures and to accommodate Norwegian ambitions for a strengthened protection of the environment, which we fully support.
“The Advisory Council of the North Sea therefore suggest that the European Commission approaches the relevant Norwegian authorities with an invitation to meet, with the intention to engage on the ways to make such decisions taken in a transparent and inclusive way. The Council strongly believes that it should be possible to find common grounds without diminishing the ambitions of Norwegian authorities. Here, one important question could be raised, which is what the purpose of the exclusion of beam trawls is, and whether this purpose could perhaps be achieved through alternative means.
“We suggest this and more to be the topic of a proposed meeting between the Commission and the Norwegian delegation. The NSAC, as always, stands ready to provide further assistance in the setting and coordination of such a meeting.”