MEPs of the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries (PE) today gave the green light to a new plan to manage fisheries in the Western Mediterranean focused on demersal fish stocks, those living near the seabed, whose catches have fallen by 23% since 2000
The plan seeks to "guarantee the exploitation of the populations while maintaining their reproductive capacity" through measures such as the reduction of the maximum permissible fishing effort during the first year by 10% compared to the total number of days allowed by 2012 and 2017.
In addition, they propose to prohibit the use of trawl nets in the waters that are inside the 100-meter-deep isobath between May 1 and July 31 of each year.
Its objectives are, among others, to facilitate the implementation of the landing obligation and limit recreational fishing when its impact on fish mortality is high.
"If the scientific advice shows that the populations are at risk, additional measures could be taken, particularly by suspending fishing for the specific population provided that the affected fishermen receive fair compensation," the European Parliament said in a statement.
The plan, which received the support of the MEPs of the Fisheries Committee by 17 votes in favor, 5 against and one abstention, will affect commercial and recreational vessels operating in the north of the Alboran Sea, the Gulf of León and the Tyrrhenian Sea, including the surroundings of the Balearic Islands, Corsica and Sardinia.
The species whose catch will be regulated will be hake, red mullet, deep-water pink shrimp, Norway lobster, blue and red shrimp and giant red shrimp.
According to EC data, in 2025 about 90% of the reserves of these fish would be depleted, which would put at risk the activity of 1,500 boats and could lead to the loss of around 16,000 jobs if the situation is not reversed.
The measures, which should receive the green light from the plenary session of the European Parliament and also be negotiated with the Member States, would affect 10,900 vessels (50% Italian, 39% Spanish and 11% French), according to 2015 data.
Several environmental associations harshly criticized the decision of the Fisheries Commission, which they called "disastrous" and, they considered, "puts the future of fishing at risk" in the waters of the Western Mediterranean.
The executive director of Oceana Europe, Lasse Gustavsson, said that the plan "as it is designed now" will cause less fish on the table in Italy, France and Spain and less work in the fishing industry.
In addition, he warned that "restrictive fishing methods will continue to destroy oceans and marine life" and recalled that eight out of ten fish populations in the region suffer from over-consumption.
Also the European office of WWF criticized that the proposals endorsed by the MEPs are less ambitious than those included in the initial plan of Brussels, and considered the vote "a missed opportunity to address the real causes of unsustainable fishing."