Today, in their conclusions on the “Pact for Fisheries and Oceans” (1), European Fisheries Ministers irresponsibly failed to abandon environmentally destructive fishing practices for the benefit of the planet, citizens and fishermen.  

Seas At Risk is appalled by the lack of ambition of the Fisheries Ministers, who did not align on the European Commission’s attempt to shift to low-impact fisheries, protect sensitive species and move away from bottom trawling in marine protected areas. 

The package proposed by the European Commission addresses both fisheries and environmental elements, in the Council only fisheries ministers expressed themselves. Seas At Risk encourages the Environmental Ministers to also comment on the matter and ensure national governments take a more balanced approach to uphold their duty to safeguard the future of the oceans and the livelihood that depend on it. 

We are going through an unprecedent ecological crisis. Marine biodiversity is declining at an even faster pace than on land. Destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling have no place in the ocean, and even less in Marine Protected Areas. Today’s negative conclusions by EU Fisheries Ministers are an act of irresponsibility towards citizens and the ocean”, said Tatiana Nuño, Senior Marine Policy officer at Seas At Risk.  

Destructive fishing has no future. Turning our back on reality does not help people nor the planet”, said Remi Cossetti, Junior Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk. “Using food security arguments to allow destructive fishing practices is a perverse paradox. Without healthy marine ecosystems there is no food coming from the ocean. Fisheries Ministers’ lack of understanding of this basic notion, and their systematic disregard of the health of the seas in favour of short-term economic benefits lead us to worryingly question their actual competence in fisheries management. 

Despite the lack of willingness by the Fisheries’ Council to consider the Commission’s proposed course of action for the future of fisheries, the need to transition towards low impact fisheries remains. Unquestionably, and regardless of today’s outcome, Member State need to abide by EU environmental law, including minimising bycatch of sensitive species (2) and prohibiting harmful activities in Marine Protected Areas such as Special Areas of Conservation where management measures should prevent deterioration (3).  



(1) The “Pact for Fisheries and Oceans”, published by the European Commission on XX February 2023, included four elements: a  Communication on the Energy Transition of the EU Fisheries and Aquaculture sector; an Action Plan to protect and restore marine ecosystems for sustainable and resilient fisheries; a Communication on the common fisheries policy today and tomorrow and a Report on the Common Market Organisation for fishery and aquaculture products. 

(2) When Member States fail to implement the EU legislation to minimize incidental catches of sensitive species, the European Commission can undertake several steps. Under the Common Fisheries Policy, the European Commission can adopt emergency fisheries measures to protect threatened species, propose fishing opportunities that take lack of selectivity into account and start infringement procedures against those Member States that do not implement the EU law of the Habitats Directive. 

(3) Habitat Directive. Article 6. 2. Member States shall take appropriate steps to avoid, in the special areas of conservation, the deterioration of natural habitats and the habitats of species as well as disturbance of the species for which the areas have been designated, in so far as such disturbance could be significant in relation to the objectives of this Directive.  EN_art_6_guide_jun_2019.pdf ( 


Seas At Risk’s press releases issued in occasion of the publication of the fisheries package by the European Commission in February 2023:  

Sink or swim for EU seas: European commission puts pressure on Member States to ban bottom trawling in new fisheries package. 

NGOs call out EU commission on conflicting policies for Fishing sector decarbonisation.