Today marks the sixth anniversary of the entry into force of the Mediterranean Regulations, banning trawling in essential habitats.
Oceana has documented the presence of these protected habitats in areas devastated by illegal fishing gears around Cabrera (Balearic Islands)
Oceana will send to the EU evidence found of illegal fishing activity in the area surrounding Cabrera and south Majorca, filing a claim against Spain for breach of the Council Regulation (EC) No. 1967/2006 for management of fishery resources in the Mediterranean Sea. Article 4 of the regulation establishes measures for the protection of essential habitats for fishing, such as coralligenous and maërl beds, measures which have not been yet been applied by Spain after six years of the entry into force of the Community regulations.
“We have cross-referenced many studies on the presence of protected habitats in the Mediterranean with fishing areas where harmful fishing gears are being used. In south Majorca, we have enough information to file a claim with the EU for breach of article 4 of the Mediterranean Regulations, which have been in force for six years now”, says Xavier Pastor, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe. “Some cases are so evident and shameful that they should be immediately punishable, such as trawling in maërl beds in the Migjorn reservation or the devastation of the unique coralligenous beds in Fort den Moreu, to the east of the Cabrera National Park”.
The importance of coralligenous and maërl beds lies in the fact that they are tri-dimensional formations of calcareous red algae that shelter hundreds of species, many of them fishing species, which make use of them to hide, spawn, and find food. Despite their environmental significance and the fact that they are protected habitats, they are being devastated by fishing gears banned by European regulations in this kind of seabed.
“For years, a lack of maps has provided the perfect excuse not to fulfil obligations, but now we have sufficient data to apply the Regulation and immediately declare the establishment of protected areas”, adds Pastor. “Moreover, fishermen know that they are fishing on forbidden coralligenous or maërl beds, because pieces of these organisms come up, caught in the fishing nets”.
The information on essential habitats to which Oceana refers is included in a long list of projects, both financed by Community funds, such as EUSEAMAP and MEDISEH, and directly financed by Spanish funds, such as MIGJORN o DRAGONSAL, or Oceana’s Cabrera bionomic study, co-funded by the Council for the Environment of the Balearic Regional Government in 2008. All these reports, the undertaking of which requires the investment of large amounts of public funds, have a common goal, which is the conservation of the main fishing resources and marine habitats. Oceana demands that action be taken on the basis of this research and the protection regulations arising from them be applied.