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Potential Negative Effects of EC Proposal on UK Deep Sea Fishing Vessels Highlighted in New Study

29 September 2014

UK - Seafish has published a report highlighting the potential economic impacts of proposed legislation from the European Commission (EC) on deep sea stocks.

The proposed bill aims to phase out bottom-sea trawling in Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs) by introducing authorisations or ‘permits’ to fish for deep sea stocks. However this legislation also includes designating species such as Ling and Conger eel as ‘deep sea’ species; an amendment which will have a negative effect on vessels whose catch partly comprises these species; even those fishing in shallow waters.

The Economic Impact Assessment, carried out on behalf of Seafish by Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS), highlights a number of alternative options to the proposed legislation, which in the initial draft could potentially affect over 600 UK vessels. The alternatives proposed in the report include removing Conger eel and Ling from the ‘deep sea’ species list, setting a 400m depth rule for deep sea stocks and designating specific areas for deep sea fishing. These options would result in much fewer vessels being affected by the legislation, whilst still achieving environmental goals.

Roy Smith, part of the Common Fisheries Policy team at Defra, said: “We believe these alternatives minimise the number of vessels affected while more reliably meeting the environmental protective objectives of the proposal than a catch percentage-based ban would achieve. This more pragmatic and reliable approach, which at the same time minimises unnecessary impacts, is likely to be more acceptable to member states, enabling quicker agreement of important measures.”

The project was jointly funded by Seafish, Defra, Marine Scotland and the Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA), all of whom collaborated on the project steering group to assess the impacts of the legislation to the UK industry.

Mike Park, Chief Executive of the SWFPA said: “SWFPA were keen to highlight the alternatives to the approach set out initially by the European Commission regarding the ban on deep sea trawling. The authors of the report have analysed every aspect of the possibilities to a high degree and support a depth and core activity approach. Scottish fishers are keen to protect both deep sea species and vulnerable marine ecosystems and are very open to put in place measures, such as that suggested in the report, while at the same time striking a balance in support of maintaining fishing business."

John Anderson, Senior Economist at Seafish said: “The Commission’s initial impact assessment didn’t contain much information on the potential economic implications of the proposal so we addressed that knowledge gap. The latest Seafish fleet costs and earnings information was used along with activity data held by CEFAS and the fisheries administrations to demonstrate that the proposal would have a significant negative impact on UK fleet earnings, wages and profits. Importantly, the report makes it clear that other management approaches would likely achieve the same outcomes in terms of protecting VMEs while also minimising any negative economic outcomes for the industry.“

The Council working group completed an article by article examination of the legislation in June, and the next step will be a Council ‘General Approach’ position being established hopefully under the Italian Presidency later this year. This will enable a trilogue negotiation between Presidency, Commission and European Parliament rapporteur on the path to final adoption.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.

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