- EU-wide ban on the use of electric pulse fishing
- Simpler rules on fishing gear and minimum size of fish
- More regional flexibility for fishermen, but also limits on catches of vulnerable stocks, especially of juvenile fish
New EU rules on how, where and when fish can be caught, were voted on Tuesday. MEPs inserted an amendment to ban the use of pulsed electric current for fishing.
The new law - updating and combining more than 30 regulations - would provide for common measures on fishing gear and methods, the minimum size of fish that may be caught and stopping or restricting fishing in certain areas or during certain periods. It also allows for tailor-made measures to be adapted to the regional needs of each sea basin.
An amendment calling for a total ban on the use of electric current for fishing (e.g. to drive fish up out of the seabed and into the net) was passed by 402 votes to 232, with 40 abstentions.
The EU rules, designed progressively to reduce juvenile catches, would, inter alia:
- prohibit some fishing gear and methods,
- impose general restrictions on the use of towed gear and static nets (list fish and shellfish species for which fishing is banned
- restrict catches of marine mammals, seabirds and marine reptiles, including special provisions to protect sensitive habitats, and
- ban practices such as “high-grading” (discarding low-priced fish even though they should legally be landed) in order to reduce discarding.
Regional measures would cover inter alia minimum conservation reference sizes, and closed or restricted areas. Member states and the Commission would have 18 months after the entry into force of the regulation to adopt regional rules on mesh sizes.
However, it would be possible to deviate from these regional rules, via a regional fisheries multiannual plan or, in the absence of such a plan, via a decision by the EU Commission. Member states could submit joint recommendations to this end, and MEPs ask them to “base their recommendations on the best available scientific advice”.
Rapporteur Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES), said: “The current state of standards is impractical, complex and rigid, so there is a need to revise the technical measures. Everyone agreed we needed simplification. We shouldn’t reinvent the rules, but rather make them clearer and more practical to implement for fishermen and others, with regionalisation and results-based programming which is helpful for the fishermen, and national and local authorities being able to take decisions in line with the broad framework.”
Parliament authorised Fisheries Committee MEPs to start talks with the Council on the final wording of the legislation.
The current technical measures regime includes more than 30 regulations. According to the Commission these are “numerous and overly complex, making compliance and control more difficult” whilst it is “impossible to measure their impact on the achievement of the conservation objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy”.