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European Parliament vote puts future of Mediterranean fishing on the line

MEPs reject necessary conservation measures, putting region’s already overfished stocks at high risk of total collapse

Press Release Date

Thursday, January 10, 2019
Contact: Marta Madina: mmadina@oceana.org 0034 911 440 884

Oceana warns emergency closures to fishing could be only option to fix Mediterranean fish crisis and to comply with EU law

The European Parliament voted today to adopt the first-ever multiannual plan for fishing in the Western Mediterranean Sea but rejected the necessary conservation measures that would fix the region’s overfishing crisis, where over 80% of stocks are overexploited and some at risk of collapse. Today’s outcome means MEPs in the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries (PECH) have flouted their duty to end overfishing by 2020 at the latest, which they endorsed back in 2013 under the legally-binding Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

In response to today’s outcome, Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana Europe, released the following statement:

Members of the European Parliament are not only undermining the law, but they are also putting at risk the future of fishing in the Western Mediterranean. With the plan as it stands now, there will be less Mediterranean fish on the tables in France, Italy and Spain, fewer jobs in the fishing industry and destructive fishing methods will continue to destroy the oceans and marine life. If the European Parliament wants to uphold the law, they will soon have no other option than to close fisheries in order to avoid an irreversible collapse of fish stocks. How will they explain that to their citizens?

Eight out of ten fish stocks in the Western sub-region of the Mediterranean are overfished, including important species like hake, mullets and shrimps. Apart from allowing severe overfishing to continue in the Mediterranean Sea, the following key measures were also rejected:

  • Restricting bottom trawling, the most destructive fishing technique, by increasing the trawl-free zone throughout the entire year from a depth of 50 metres to at least 100 metres, where young fish aggregate and sensitive marine habitats are found. MEPs voted on exceptions to these provisions, leaving ecosystems poorly badly protected, allowing for “business-as-usual” for industrial bottom-trawlers and putting low-impact artisanal fishers at a loss;
  • Setting fishing effort[1] in line with scientific advice in order to restore and maintain fish stocks at sustainable levels. MEPs are only willing to reduce the amount of ‘fishing effort’ in the Western Mediterranean by up to 10% only a year, despite some stocks, like hake, needing a 90% reduction due to its critical state. At the same time, the maximum number of authorised fishing hours per day was increased (from 12 to 18 hours), thus heightening fishing pressure instead of easing it;
  • Introducing a catch limits system as a future safeguard in case fishing management rules fail to rebuild stocks to sustainable levels and if scientists recommend doing so;
  • Applying the precautionary principle and mitigating fisheries bycatch, MEPs rejected provisions to tackle incidental catches of protected species and removed conservation measures for fish stocks for which poor or no data exist.

Oceana is also strongly concerned that the Western Mediterranean multiannual plan will now be directly negotiated with the Council of the EU in the coming weeks – in an undemocratic process known as ‘trilogues’ – and without a vote in plenary in the European Parliament, which is a controversial departure from normal procedure.

Learn more:

Western Mediterranean. Overfishing crisis: act now, or lose it forever

#WestMedMAP #StopOverfishing #CFP2020 #MedFish4Ever