Every scenario modelled by researchers since the adoption of the regulation closing 87 areas of Atlantic waters to demersal fishing shows economic and employment losses, according to European industry body Europêche. Despite its negligible effects on the seabed, the longline fleet will be hardest hit by ban’s effects.
The Organisation of Fisheries Producers of the Port of Burela and the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) made a presentation earlier this week at the EU Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee for Sea Fisheries, outlining the significant socio-economic impacts of the EU Regulation that prohibits bottom fishing in 87 areas.
The USC data has been incorporated as a socio-economic argument in the appeal for annulment filed by the sector against this rule before the General Court of the EU in Luxembourg last December.
According to Europêche, the study demonstrates the disproportionality of the rule and the fact that this EU law was approved without the required socio-economic evaluation. The industry has called on the Commission to rectify and to change the rule as a matter of urgency, without awaiting the judgment of the Court.
The EU longline fleet consists mainly of family-owned vessels in the 30m size bracket, fishing with gear that prioritises quality over quantity. Despite its insignificant impact on the seabed, it has turned out to be the most affected gear by the EU implementing regulation banning bottom fishing in certain sea areas. The main reason lies in the fact that the general closure of areas has been adopted without taking into account the impact of each fishing gear on the seabed.
Professor Gonzalo Rodríguez, co-ordinator of the research group on fishing economics and natural resources at USC, stated that ‘bottom longline fleets in European waters will not be viable with the general closures imposed in this implementing regulation’.
The university evaluated and quantified the socioeconomic impacts across best, moderate and worst case different scenarios since the entry into force of this EU Law. The reduction in catches, the evolution of inflation and its cost structure were the main elements considered, which provided evidence of the serious direct and indirect impacts of the rule.
In particular, it is estimated that the direct impact of the application of the new Regulation can lead to a reduction of up to €27 million in overall turnover, with annual losses of up to €150,000 per year per vessel, resulting in irreversible and structural damage to the future of this fleet.
In terms of indirect impact, these losses of the longline fleet will cause a loss of business for ancillary and supply companies, which will also see their turnover reduced by up to €17.5 million, with inevitable consequences for coastal communities highly dependent on fishing.
Social Partners in the fisheries sector unanimously have deplored the European Commission’s lack of connection with the fisheries reality. Industry representatives called on the Commission to maintain the continuous dialogue on this topic and to redress the problem as a matter of urgency without waiting for the court ruling.
The industry standpoint is that since this regulation creates more problems than solutions, it should be rectified before its effects become irreversible.