EU to ban bottom trawling in protected areas –

According to a draft European biodiversity plan seen by EURACTIV, EU member states will have to reduce the harmful effects of fishing on vulnerable species and their habitats.

The “EU Action Plan for the protection and restoration of marine ecosystems for sustainable and sustainable fisheries” is expected to be published by the European Commission in the first quarter of 2023.

One of its flagship measures is to end the destructive effects of bottom trawling, a fishing method that involves dragging heavy nets along the seabed to catch fish.

The draft plan calls for banning bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2030, but allowing it to take place outside their boundaries.

Deep-water trawling, at a depth of more than 800 meters, was already banned in the EU in 2016, with some exceptions.

The action plan was first outlined in the Commission’s 2030 Biodiversity Strategy as a way to protect nature and combat biodiversity loss. It was originally planned for 2021, but was repeatedly postponed after a public consultation drew strong opposition from the fishing sector.

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Eurofishing to the wind

Europêche, the industry group said to itself:he was horrifiedAccording to the commission, bottom fishing gear is the most harmful activity to the seabed.

Dragging a fishing net along the water column or seabed is unsustainable if done irresponsibly. But with proper management and wise placement, trolling can be very durable.The association said this in response to public discussion.

The draft plan warns that the European fishing sector is facing “existential threatslinked to climate change and biodiversity loss. He emphasizes that only a healthy marine environment will ensure a prosperous future for fishing communities.

Protecting and restoring Europe’s seas and oceans is more important than ever to counter the negative impacts of the triple global crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution on our economies and societies, including the fishing sector and coastal communities.“, we can read in the document.

The document highlights that to date only 12% of EU seas have been designated as protected areas and less than 1% are strictly protected. These figures are well below the 30% the EU aims to achieve by 2030 as part of its biodiversity strategy.

The aim is also to fill the gaps identified in the 2020 special report of the EU Court of Auditors on the marine environment.

The report notes that many marine species and habitats are in poor condition and cannot be considered Europe’s seas.healthy or cleans” and a large proportion of marine species and habitat assessments “unfavorable protection situationwith fisheries exerting major pressure on marine ecosystems.

To solve these problems, the Action Plan envisages action in four directions:

  • Improve fishing selectivity and reduce negative impacts on vulnerable species and their habitats;
  • Minimize the impact of fishing, including bottom trawling, on sensitive habitats such as the seabed;
  • Ensure a fair and equitable transition in the fisheries sector;
  • strengthen research and innovation to integrate the conceptnatural capitalin economic decisions.

Very weak action plan according to NGOs

Conservation groups have welcomed the Commission’s plan, but say it falls short on several counts.

The action plan makes it clear that we need to move away from destructive fisheries such as bottom trawling, which is the first time the Commission has dealt with the problem so clearly and we welcome it.Monica Verbeck, executive director of Seas at Risk, said.

The action plan also recognizes the need for a just transition to low-impact fishing, which we believe is the only way out of the current failed system.he told EURACTIV in written comments.

However, to achieve this, the plan is mainly based on the existing environmental legislation and so far only “failed to effectively protect marine species and ecosystems“, Ms. Verbeek argued.

In addition, a proposal to ban bottom trawling in marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030 is only seven years away, say NGOs, saying it is counter-intuitive to extend the cull to MPAs, which are areas requiring special protection. .

The commission itself acknowledges that the proposed measures will not do the trick as it plans to assess progress in 2024, and already points to a follow-up legislative proposal that will be the responsibility of the next commissioner.Ms. Verbeck told EURACTIV. This marks the end of the mandate of Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Commissioner Virginius Sinkevičius in 2024.

Read the draft action plan below or download it here.

Action Plan_December 2022-1-1

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