MEPs call for a holistic approach to fisheries management with expansion of Marine Protected Areas, increased quotas for small-scale fisheries and climate change action.
In an own initiative report adopted on Thursday with 362 votes in favour, 248 against and 71 abstentions, the Parliament asks Member States to expand the network of fish stock recovery areas under the Common Fisheries Programme (CFP) and to increase the percentage of national quotas allocated to small-scale coastal fishing, which “can significantly facilitate the transition to sustainable fish stock management”.
The text welcomes the Commission’s proposal, in its 2030 EU Biodiversity Strategy, to have at least 30% of European waters as Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Nevertheless, it stresses that this goal should be made legally binding and that half of this area should enjoy a high level of protection, with restrictions not only for commercial fishing, but also for other activities, such as fossil fuel exploration, offshore wind farms, mass tourism or large-scale aquaculture.
MEPs urge that resources from the current and future European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) should be used to establish this kind of highly protected areas.
Fishermen should be involved in the preparation and management of marine protected areas, as their acceptance of these spaces is key to succeed in protecting them. Member States should adopt legislation authorising fishermen to bring to land any waste caught at sea and introduce a system of incentives for the use of appropriate collection systems, the report adds.
Moreover, the EP stresses that rapid and effective action to fight climate change is essential for preserving marine ecosystems and the continuity of sustainable fishing in the long term.
One of the main goals of the CFP is to halt overfishing of all European stocks. According to the Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), 38% of North East Atlantic stocks and 92% of Mediterranean stocks are still overexploited.