Europêche has welcomed the new multiannual management plan for demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean

The establishment of a new multiannual management plan for demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean that affects the fleets, mainly trawlers, from Italy, France and Spain as the European Parliament Committee on Fisheries’ adopted its position on the European Commission proposal has been welcomed by fishing industry body Europêche.

The mulitannual management plan is seen as a positive step forward towards the final adoption of this legislative proposal which, in the context of regionalisation, is expected to provide more stability and bring decision-making closer to fishermen and coastal communities.

According to Europêche, while welcoming the general results of yesterday’s vote, there are two main issues that still trouble the European fishing industry. These are the introduction of a severe trawl restriction and the harsh reduction of the activity at sea from the first year of implementation of the new rules. These measures could undermine the efforts made so far and the viability of the Mediterranean fleets, which have already suffered a considerable decline in in recent years in terms of vessel numbers and jobs.

The Parliament's position builds on the Commission's proposal which aims at ensuring that fishing activities are environmentally sustainable in the long term. The Fisheries Committee has positively put special emphasis on the need to achieve socio-economic and employment benefits.

‘We are convinced the Fisheries Committee has delivered an important contribution towards better conservation and sustainable exploitation of demersal stocks in the western Mediterranean,’ said Europêche President Javier Garat.

‘Fishermen believe that there is still room for improvement and further flexibility in order to adapt the plan to the Mediterranean specificities. Particularly, the introduction of restrictions on the fishing activity and fishing gear bans would put in jeopardy not only entire fishing communities but also the ports, auctions and ancillary industries depending on the daily fresh landings provided by our fishers. Small-scale bottom trawlers are one of the main food suppliers in the Mediterranean. Therefore, if trawlers are to stop fishing activities for three months each year, these sectors will be deeply affected and consumers will certainly feel the repercussions.’

The Mediterranean counts twenty-two coastal states, of which only eight are EU members. In the area covered by the management plan, non-EU fleets represent 30.3% of the total bottom trawling fleet, which has a direct impact on the state of the fish stocks. Europêche has stressed that the EU should seek consistency with the measures approved by the international community within the framework of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM). For that reason alone, Europêche welcomes the Committee’s rejection of the Commission’s attempt to introduce management measures based on total allowable catches (TACs); which would not work under this management plan.

In addition, the Fisheries Committee has granted a degree of flexibility to the Commission’s proposal to ban the use of trawl gear at depths above 100 metres for three months each year by taking into account geographical and scientific factors. According to Europêche, there is no need for such a prohibition since there are already sufficient guarantees within EU and national legislation to prevent trawling on vulnerable grounds. Likewise, the proposed ban would de facto translate into ending fishing for many smaller trawlers which cannot operate in deeper waters for safety reasons. Instead, Europêche favours establishing specific closed areas, duly justified from a scientific point of view, such as those already proposed by the fishing sector itself in several EU countries.

‘On a more positive note, the sacrifices and efforts made by our fishermen are already paying off. According to GFCM, overexploitation of fish stocks in the Mediterranean and the Black Sea dropped from 88% in 2014 to 78% in 2016,’ Javier Garat said.

‘This is an encouraging trend that we believe is even more positive nowadays.’

Source: Europêche