The European Parliament Fisheries Committee today voted on a proposal that will revise legislation on the protection of fisheries resources and marine ecosystems. The proposal merges more than 30 existing regulations and directives, all aimed at minimising the impacts of fishing on ecosystems. However, the proposal seriously weakens or deletes several existing measures.

Björn Stockhausen, Fisheries Policy Officer at Seas At Risk said: ”It is a disgrace that the Fisheries Committee decided to go back to the dark ages of poor environmental protection, weakening and deleting existing environmental legislation that has in some cases protected juvenile fish and habitats for decades. They should know better than deleting those measures, as it will reduce the ability of ecosystems to support thriving fish stocks, undermining the sustainability of their exploitation.”

The adopted proposal includes the following key changes or deletions of existing environmental provisions:

  • The report seriously weakens the ambition of environmental legislation, by introducing weaker language in many areas, asking to ‘contribute to’ achieving certain objectives instead of ‘ensuring’ that they are achieved.
  • It also fails to set coherent rules to tackle bycatch of marine mammals and seabirds across EU sea basins.
  • The prohibition on the use of electric pulse fishing has been lifted for the North Sea, now allowing for an unlimited amount of vessels to use this gear, even though the environmental impact of this fishery is hotly debated and still needs to be assessed by independent scientific bodies.
  • The objective of reducing catches of juvenile fish, to ensure they can reproduce and contribute to the fish stock before being caught, has been seriously weakened and makes any quantifiable reduction in the coming years questionable.  In absence of a quantifiable target that is valid for all EU fisheries, it will now be up to regional groups of Member States to come up with regional joint recommendations in order to achieve reductions.

The next step in the process will be a debate of this adopted proposal of the Fisheries Committee in a plenary parliamentary session to establish the final position of the European Parliament. An attempt to skip this step and go straight into negotiations with the Council over the final legislation did not succeed. This still gives the chance to the majority of parliamentarians to adjust the position of the Parliament and ensure that existing legislation to minimise the impacts of fishing on ecosystems will not be weakened.