Plenary likely to approve report by Fisheries Committee that supports destructive fishing and undermines Parliament’s position on biodiversity targets

Marine NGOs Seas At Risk and Oceana are sounding the alarm that the European Parliament is poised to adopt a report on the Marine Action Plan (1) on 18 January supporting destructive fishing.

The report was drafted exclusively by the Parliament’s Fisheries Committee, without the involvement or opinion of the Environment Committee, against the spirit  of the EU Marine Action Plan which was collaboratively drawn up jointly by the European Commission’s Fisheries and Environmental services, and grounded in the EU 2030 Biodiversity Strategy.

Remi Cossetti, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk, said: “Approving the Marine Action Plan report as it stands would signal a troubling regression in environmental ambition by the Parliament, given the lack of collaboration with the Environment Committee and the failure to address critical issues including protecting sensitive species from becoming bycatch. We urge Members of the European Parliament to stick to previously agreed environmental goals and to set the health of marine ecosystems as the compass for future decisions on the ocean”. 

Nicolas Fournier, Campaign Director for Marine Protection at Oceana in Europe, said: “MEPs must significantly improve the text of the Marine Action Plan report in plenary, or reject it outright. Not only does it backtrack on previous European Parliament positions that called for action against destructive fishing like bottom trawling, but it also goes against international standards on Marine Protected Areas, damaging the EU’s credibility as an international ocean champion.”  

Notable backtracking on prior positions of the Parliament include:

– Lack of support for the ban on industrial activities in Marine Protected Areas. The Parliament previously called for an EU-wide ban on all environmentally damaging industrial activities in protected zones (2).

– Failure to address the wider adverse impacts of fishing techniques like bottom trawling. The Parliament previously called on the EU to urgently tackle the detrimental impacts of certain destructive fishing gears on the climate, seabed integrity, fish populations, and sensitive species. (3). 

Additionally, the labelling in the report of bottom trawling as a ‘sustainable’ fishing practice conflicts with established scientific evidence highlighting the detrimental impacts of this fishing technique (4). The report overlooks the concept of a just transition towards low-impact fisheries. It also disregards the Marine Action Plan’s proposal to help Member States comply with a longstanding unfulfilled environmental obligation under the Birds and Habitats Directive (5), which addresses the protection of sensitive species from becoming bycatch (6). 

The report echoes deceptive arguments previously used against the EU Green Deal and the EU Nature Restoration Law. It reflects a calculated effort to push a regressive narrative and criticise the EU ahead of the European Parliament elections, scaremongering about environmental rules and using unfounded socio-economic arguments.


  1. In February 2023 the Commission published its Marine Action Plan: (Seas At Risk and Oceana’s reactions here and here)
  2. 2022 Report on a Sustainable Blue economy in the EU (§119) and in 2022 Resolution on strengthening ocean governance and biodiversity (§16)
  3. 2022 Report on a Sustainable Blue economy in the EU (§ 116): and 2021 Report on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 (§74)
  4. Bottom-contacting gear is amongst the most unselective and destructive fishing gears. The method involves dragging heavy weighted nets across the sea floor, indiscriminately catching all types of living creatures and habitats in their path. Bottom trawling can strip up to 41% of invertebrate life from the sea-bed, and is responsible for more than 90% of incidental catches of sensitive species in the EU. 
  5. Article 6.2. of the Habitats Directive states that “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”.
  6. Several iconic and sensitive species throughout the EU do not receive the protection guaranteed by the Habitats Directive such as Baltic Harbour Porpoise or dolphins in the Bay of Biscay. For instance, common dolphins suffer from the inaction of Member States as they get regularly by-caught in fishing nets in high numbers, threatening their population, despite the legal obligation to protect them