The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has decided at the last moment to delay the adoption process of a new deep sea access regime. This may leave the EU stuck with its outdated deep sea legislation for several additional years, putting deep sea fish stocks and vulnerable ecosystems at further risk.

The European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee has decided at the last moment to delay the adoption process of a new deep sea access regime. This may leave the EU stuck with its outdated deep sea legislation for several additional years, putting deep sea fish stocks and vulnerable ecosystems at further risk.

On 20th February, the Environmental Committee voted almost unanimously in support of the report by MEP Anna Rosbach that endorsed the proposed phase out of deep sea trawling and gillnetting and significantly strengthened other provisions of the Commission proposal. In contrast, there was strong opposition to the report by MEP Arsenis which he presented to the Fisheries Committee today. This opposition seemed to be fuelled by a letter from the deep sea trawling industry to the chair of the Fisheries Committee, claiming that the parliamentary hearing on the issue which was held in February was neither fair nor balanced. The

Fisheries Committee decided to organise an additional hearing in June and requested the Commission to update the impact assessment on which the original proposal is based. Interestingly, the arguments used by MEPs against the proposal and supporting a delay were all arguments brought forward by speakers in this first hearing.

The extra hearing will have an important delaying impact on the legislative process since it will push the Fisheries Committee’s vote towards July and the plenary vote of the European Parliament towards October 2013. By then, the Council will be focussing on annual fishing quota negotiations. The subsequent trialogue negotiations risk coming to a dead end in 2014 with the elections for the European Parliament in May 2014 and with the appointment of a new Commission towards the end of 2014.

This will potentially lead to a delay of several years for the new deep sea legislation since the new Commission will have to reintroduce the file into the new legislative process. In the meantime, existing EU legislation is lagging behind on the latest developments on international level, where United Nations General Assembly resolutions clearly strengthened the protection of the deep sea and its fish stocks.

Photo by Stephen McGowan, Australian Maritime College, 2006, Marine Photobank

Links

Commission proposal

Environment committee report and amendments

 

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