Oceana calls on EU Fisheries Ministers to match the efforts made by the European Commission and the European Parliament to address the critical situation of the North-East Atlantic deep-sea. The plenary of the Parliament will vote on a new regulation for deep-sea fisheries on December 10, prior to reaching an agreement with the Council of Ministers – which has not yet even started to review the issue. Meanwhile, vulnerable species and ancient habitats continue to be destroyed, due to lack of management.
“Most EU citizens are unaware of the ongoing and irreversible damage being caused to fish species which take decades to reproduce, and to thousand-year old coral reefs. Yet ministers know that this is happening and that it is caused by mismanagement – including the use of destructive fishing gears such as bottom trawls and gillnets. We call on the ministers of each Member State to stand up for the deep-sea. Otherwise, the consequences of their inaction will not end with the next elections, but will last for centuries,” stated Xavier Pastor, executive director of Oceana in Europe.
The current regulation on North-East Atlantic deep-sea fisheries dates back to 2002, and could be described as ‘management in the dark.’ It establishes no prerequisites for vessels to be authorised to fish, sets no criteria for fixing fishing opportunities, and does not include any measures for protecting vulnerable species and ecosystems. Out of the 100 deep-sea species captured by EU vessels, only 24 are covered by the 2002 regulation, and 18 of these are now prohibited for capture because they were heavily overfished or are at risk of becoming so. Bottom trawls that plough indiscriminately along the sea floor are allowed to destroy vulnerable marine ecosystems, such as corals and sponges, and both bottom trawls and gillnets capture large quantities of bycatch, including vulnerable species such as deep-sea sharks.
The European Commission presented a proposal in July 2012 to address the flaws in the current regulation through a broad package of measures that would improve European deep-sea fisheries management. During 2013, this text has been reviewed and voted upon by both the European Parliament Environment Committee and the Fisheries Committee, and the plenary of the Parliament will cast its vote on December 10. The final step of the process is for the Parliament and the Council of Fisheries Ministers to reach an agreement, but the Council has not even begun to study the file, despite having identified the issue as a priority nearly one year ago.