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MEPs Ban Deep-Sea Fishing Below 800m in the North-East Atlantic

15 December 2016

EU - A ban on fishing below a depth of 800 meters in the North-East Atlantic was backed by Parliament on Tuesday 13 December. This ban will apply to bottom trawling, which often wrecks sea bed habitats, and also restrict deep-sea fishing to the area where it took place between 2009 and 2011. Tougher checks at sea and transparent data collection rules will also apply.

"This deep-sea fishing regulation is highly symbolic. Deep-sea fishing is an economic activity which, besides its social function of providing jobs, also provides food and it has a strong environmental impact", said rapporteur Isabelle Thomas (S&D, FR). “We have won an agreement tailored to our priorities and all its aims”, she added.

Depth limits

The new rules will set a depth limit of 800 metres, beneath which it will be illegal to fish. This will help protect the fragile vulnerable marine ecosystems of the deep sea bed.

The regulation also lays down separate rules to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems (VMEs) at depths below 400 metres. If a catch exceeds set amounts of VME indicator species, then the vessel will have to stop fishing immediately and resume only when it has moved at least five nautical miles away from where it encountered a VME.

Fishing area covered by the new regulation

The EU will restrict the North-East Atlantic "footprint" area, where deep-sea fishing is permitted, to that where deep-sea fishing took place in 2009-2011. This rule will apply to vessels targeting deep-sea species; i.e. those whose deep-sea species catch makes up more than 8% of the total on at least one fishing trip during the year.

Data collection, transparency, observers on board

MEPs also inserted stronger transparency safeguards, by including obligations to provide public information on EU vessels targeting deep-sea species and to report all catches (fish and vulnerable ecosystems).

EU member states will also be required to provide information on the location of vulnerable ecosystems (impact assessments) and the EU Commission will assess this data annually and adapt the footprint area accordingly (using implementing acts).

MEPs also included tougher checks at sea - 20% of EU vessels will need to have an observer (scientist) on board to ensure that timely and accurate data are collected.

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