ANALYSIS - The European Commission has proposed new measures to regulate fishing for deep-sea species in the North-East Atlantic, but the proposal has been met with opposition, writes Lucy Towers, TheFishSite Editor.
In order to protect vulnerable deep sea species, such as black scabbard fish and red sea bream, and to decrease unwanted by-catch, the European Commission is proposing a gradual ban on deep sea fishing gear which is deemed unsustainable, namely bottom trawls and bottom-set gillnets.
Deep sea fisheries account for about one per cent of fish landed from the North-East Atlantic, but some local fishing communities depend to some extent on deep-sea fisheries. The catches – and related jobs - have been declining for years due to depleted stocks.
A gradual licence ban is therefore proposed so that bottom trawler vessels which specifically target deep sea species have time to change to using more sustainable and habitat-friendly equipment.
This plan however is causing concern in the fisheries sector.
The respective Presidents of Europêche, the EAPO and the Copa-Cogeca Working Party on Fish, Javier Garat, Sean O'Donoghue and Giampaolo Buonfiglio, respectively, announced that they are surprised the propsal was made without taking into account scientific recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) regarding the status of stocks of deep-sea species.
They also stated that it was concerning to see how intent the European Fisheries Commissioner, Maria Damanaki, seemed to be on banning this practice although the main species fished by EU vessels, particularly in waters to the west of Scotland and in the Celtic Sea, conform with the objective of Maximum Sustainable Yield, according to the ICES.
Should the proposal gradually to ban bottom trawling soon be adopted by the Commission, Europêche, the EAPO and Cogeca would call on the European Parliament and the Council of the EU to show their good sense and responsibility and urgently react on behalf of the EU to a decision that, if taken, would have serious socio-economic consequences.
To find ways to test less harmful fishing gear and switch to fishing techniques and strategies that have less impact on those fragile ecosystems, the Commission has decided to finance a study on this topic in cooperation with companies involved in deep-sea activities.