Belgium. European Commission welcomes successful outcome of November Fisheries Council

Thursday, 23 November 2006

The European Commission has warmly welcomed the outcome of the Council of Fisheries Ministers, yesterday, which reached political agreement on three important Commission proposals. The new Regulations will make a substantial contribution to the EU’s endeavours to secure sustainability in all fisheries. Two of the deals were reached on proposals that had been tabled some three and two years ago. The proposals related to conservation measures for Mediterranean fisheries, the use of new technology in deterring illegal fishing activities and the setting of fishing possibilities for deep sea species for 2007 and 2008.

Joe Borg, European Commissioner for Fisheries and Maritime Affairs, said: “All three sets of measures are very important for sustainability. First, the protection of Mediterranean fish stocks and marine ecosystems will be substantially strengthened through tailor-made measures for the fisheries in the area. Second, the application of new technologies in fisheries will facilitate the fight against illegal fishing activities. Third, the agreement reached on deep sea stocks will lead to effective protection for vulnerable deep sea species while giving the fleets concerned time to adapt to the necessary constraints on their activities.”

The proposal on the Mediterranean was tabled three years ago (see IP/03/1361). It has since been extensively debated by all the interested Parties and institutions but agreement was reached in Council only yesterday. Everyone agreed on the need to put in place effective measures to protect fish stocks and marine ecosystems as well as an adapted management framework for Mediterranean fisheries. However, it took time to strike the right balance between introducing more uniform measures and providing the necessary flexibility to best accommodate the specificities of the fisheries concerned.

The new measures will strengthen the selectivity of towed gears through an increase in trawl mesh sizes. They will also protect the most coastal waters from the use of towed gears. This is vital for the effective protection of sensitive habitats and of nursery grounds which are so important. Finally, this new Regulation will allow the use of fishing gear that is better adapted to the needs of the Mediterranean fisheries and marine environment.

The second proposal that had been on the table for the past two years relates to the use of electronic log books by skippers and vessel remote sensing. These measures, adopted unanimously, will play a very important role in tackling illegal fishing practices and as such will also make a significant contribution to achieving sustainable fisheries.

The new regulation will lead to the replacement of existing paper-based tools at all stages of the fisheries chain (log book, landing declarations and sales notes). The electronic reporting system will be implemented for all boats over 15 metres by 2011. The result will be a system which is quicker, more accurate, and less expensive. The regulation also introduces the use of satellite imagery for remote sensing of vessels, which will be an important tool in the fight against illegal fishing.

The third deal at yesterday’s Council, also adopted unanimously, related to the proposal on the fishing possibilities on deep sea species for the next two years (see IP/06/1278). Deep sea species are particularly sensitive to fishing. Recommendations from scientists were for some substantial cuts in catches on a number of stocks.

The challenge in this case was to provide effective protection for these vulnerable stocks in a way that would not have devastating effects on the fleets concerned. It was no easy task. However, the measures agreed will help reach that balance. In addition to the two successive reductions in fishing possibilities agreed yesterday of between 15 to 25% in both 2007 and 2008, the Commission will propose a further 5% cut in the fishing effort exerted on these fish stocks in its forthcoming proposal that will be discussed at the December Council.

Council also held an exchange of views on the Commission's communication on the application of the maximum sustainable yield approach (MSY). MSY is the highest yield that may be taken from a fish stock without lowering its productive potential for future years. The communication outlines the steps needed to apply an MSY approach, the benefits this will bring once stocks are in good biological state and the options for managing the transitional period for stocks that are overfished. The Commission welcomes the generally positive response which this has received.

Finally, Council also discussed the Commission's efforts to simplify and improve the Common Fisheries Policy over the last six months. Member States welcomed the Commission's report and reaffirmed their support for this initiative. In its conclusions, the Presidency highlighted the need for action on a number of points, including forging closer contacts between fishers and EU citizens and encouraging the development of electronic logbook technology and use.

Last Updated ( Thursday, 23 November 2006 )