Representing more than 20,000 fishermen and 7000 vessels, the European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA), has met EU Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius to make clear the consequences of the implementing act establishing area closures in 87 areas across the Atlantic.
EBFA representatives took the opportunity to make their point n a face-to-face meeting, ensuring that issues of the principle of proportionality, the low legal quality of the proposed regulation as well as the lack of real consultation with stakeholders and lack of best scientific data to support parts of the new regulation were all made clear.
‘We welcome the opportunity offered by the Commissioner to meet and debate this crucial issue in person. We also appreciate the commitment to improve the consultation process and the underpinning science in future processes,’ EBFA president Ivan Lopez said following the meeting.
‘For the EBFA, it was useful to plainly lay out the sector’s fear and expose the shortcomings and negative consequences of the EC’s implementing act. We have requested, once more, to Commissioner Sinkevicius to suspend this measure until the new science and impact assessment are available.’
He commented that while EBFA obviously supports the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, the Commission has prohibited fishing in a total area three times larger than necessary. To protect 5237 square kilometres of VMEs, the European Commission has prohibited fishing across 16,419 square kilometres.
‘This lack of proportionality is particularly concerning and does mean further closure of marine areas with no need for protection,’ Ivan Lopez said.
‘The sector does not dispute the need for VME protection. However, the EU cannot afford to waste squeezing marine space for fishing. We could understand the closure of 5237 square kilometres of real vulnerable ecosystem areas but can neither accept nor understand the total closure of more than 16400 square kilometres for no apparent reason.’
EBFA points out that demersal fishing is a major contributor to European food sovereignty, accounting for more than one million tonnes of fish caught each year – which is 25% of total catches on a European scale. While the European Union already imports more than 70% of the fish consumed each year by European citizens, EBFA states that it is surprising to see the European Commission reinforcing this dependence through a disproportionate regulation.
EBFA has also highlighted what is described as a shocking refusal on the part of the European Commission refuses to study the economic and social consequences of such a decision, which endangers the future of bottom fishing in the Atlantic and therefore threatens the livelihoods of more than 10,000 fishermen.
In addition, EBFA states that the Commission has failed to consult the competent European bodies (in this case, the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries – STECF), or conduct any socio-economic impact study, which is contrary to European regulations and even the Treaties. This poses a threat to the legality of the measure.