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Oceana argues that apart from perpetuating a serious situation of overfishing, MEPs have rejected crucial plan measures to protect juveniles.

EP threatens the future of fisheries in the Mediterranean, Oceana warns

EUROPEAN UNION
Thursday, January 10, 2019, 23:50 (GMT + 9)

The conservation organization Oceana regrets that the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament has rejected the introduction of the necessary measures to stop the overfishing crisis in the Mediterranean Sea, having today voted the first multi-annual plan for demersal fishing in the western Mediterranean.

European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries

In Oceana's opinion, MEPs ignore the commitment they adopted in 2013 with the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to recover all fish stocks at sustainable levels by 2020.

European hake (Merluccius merluccius). (Photo: © OCEANA)

The NGO stresses that eight out of ten fish stocks in the western Mediterranean suffer from overfishing, including hake, red mullet and different shrimp species, and emphasizes that some of them are at risk of collapse.

Red mullet (Mullus surmuletus).

"The MEPs not only circumvent the legislation, but they endanger the future of fishing in the western Mediterranean. With the current plan draft, there will be less fish coming from the Mediterranean in the tables of Spain, France and Italy and less employment in the fishing sector, while destructive fishing methods continue to destroy marine life," says Lasse Gustavsson, executive director of Oceana Europe. 

"If the European Parliament wishes to abide by the law, they will soon have no choice but to close fisheries to avoid a collapse of irreversible fish stocks. How will they explain it to the citizens?," he adds. 

Oceana argues that apart from perpetuating a serious situation of overfishing, MEPs have rejected crucial plan measures to protect juveniles and sensitive habitats, among which it mentions: 
  • Restrict bottom trawling by extending the trawl free zone throughout the year from 50 to 100 meters deep, a coastal strip that is important for aggregations of juveniles and sensitive marine habitats. In this regard, the organization explains that MEPs have voted for exceptions that prevent it from being effectively protected and allow trawlers to continue their activity, thus damaging artisanal fishing.
     
  • Establish fishing effort according to scientific recommendations to recover and maintain fish stocks at sustainable levels. Instead, MEPs have limited the reduction of fishing effort to only a maximum of 10 percent, despite the fact that stocks such as hake need 90 percent because of their critical state. Likewise, they have increased the maximum number of authorized hours per day (from 12 to 18), thus intensifying overfishing instead of reducing it, explains the NGO.
     
  • Introduce the possibility of a system of catch limits in case fisheries management fails to return stocks to sustainable levels and scientists recommend activating it.
     
  • Apply the precautionary principle and mitigate bycatch. MEPs have rejected provisions regarding accidental catches of protected species and have eliminated conservation measures for fish stocks for which there is little data. 

In addition, Oceana expressed regret that the plan will be negotiated directly with the Council of the EU in the coming weeks, without a vote in the plenary of the European Parliament, in an undemocratic process known as trilogues.

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