London – Last Friday, the week-long annual meeting of the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC), which manages the fisheries resources in the international waters of this region, came to a disappointing close. Oceana, an official observer, regrets the lost opportunity to reach necessary agreements on the main exploited fish stocks and in particular blasts the rejection of the adoption of a new bottom fishing regulation by the Contracting Parties in the last minute of the meeting.
“NEAFC has lost a valuable opportunity here, and the Contracting Parties have clearly put their credibility as decision makers into question,” stated Xavier Pastor executive director of Oceana in Europe. “What is the point of having these meetings if nothing comes out of them?”
Despite having scientific advice on catch levels for most of the stocks managed by the NEAFC, the Contracting Parties failed to reach a common agreement for several, including mackerel, blue whiting, and herring, which represent a high percentage of catches in the area. Some agreements were made, but only for a few stocks of haddock, redfish and round grenadier. Decisions on the remaining stocks will be pushed to the next round of negotiations, in December.
Oceana is deeply disappointed in the rejection of the highly anticipated bottom fishing regulation proposal, a package of management measures in line with the FAO guidelines on the protection of Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs). The rejected proposal contained positive measures including requirements for impact assessments in new fishing areas, a detailed list of VME indicator habitats and species, an increase in the area closed to bottom trawling when it overlaps with VMEs, and the prohibition of bottom fishing activity in four new areas in the Rockall and Hatton basins, and over the Josephine seamount.
“Although some aspects of the proposed bottom fishing regulation could have been more ambitious. It would clearly have been a step in the right direction,” concluded Javier Lopez marine scientist at Oceana. “It is a shame to see 18 months of negotiations go down the drain, and what is worse is that critically important habitats will suffer the consequences of the inaction of the Contracting Parties for at least one more year.”