The European Commission announced on Thursday 15 September the closure of part of the Community waters of the North-East Atlantic to trawling in order to protect the biodiversity of the seabed, an announcement welcomed by environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs) but criticized by fishermen.
The ban covers the operation of all vessels equipped with bottom gear (bottom trawls, dredges, bottom gillnets, bottom longlines, pots and traps) on an area of approximately 16,400 square kilometers, below 400 meters deep.
It’s about preserving “87 sensitive areas” off the coasts of Ireland, France, Portugal and Spain, covering a total of 1.16% of EU waters in the north-east Atlantic, the European executive explained in a statement.
“Our oceans and our fisheries depend on healthy marine ecosystems”said Virginijus Sinkevicius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, before continuing: “We are delivering on our commitment to protect and restore marine life. “
The measure was developed after two years of consultation with Member States and stakeholders, including the fisheries sector and NGOs. It will enter into force twenty days after its publication in Official Journal of the European Union.
This closure complements the ban on trawling below 800 meters introduced by the European Union in 2016 to help restore vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold-water coral reefs, seamounts and deep-sea faults.
“It’s a day of joy”exclaimed Claire Nouvian, founder of the Bloom association that fights for the protection of the oceans. “The extraordinary ecosystems over 400 meters deep will finally be able to breathe and stop being crushed by huge industrial machinery that pulverizes millenary corals, centuries-old sponges and sharks, fragile eared octopuses and myriads of extraordinary species that have been collateral victims for more than thirty years of the insatiable greed of industrial ships “he said in a note.
Lack of impact study
The European Bottom Fishing Alliance (EBFA), which represents 20,000 fishermen from 14 European countries, has instead denounced a “Failed legislation”in a note sent to Agence France-Presse.
“We fully agree with the stated aim of the European Commission to preserve some sensitive areas”, explained the president of the EFBA, Ivan Lopez. This Spanish official, however, denounced the absence of an impact study “evaluate the consequences of this measure for many fishing families and more generally local communities that depend on this activity”.
Believing that the Commission had not complied with European regulations, it warned that the EBFA would investigate “All legal actions a [sa] layout “.