The case for fish stock recovery areas

Protecting 10–20% of the sea from fishing, as proposed in the fisheries reform, would dramatically improve the state of the European marine environment and boost catches, science shows. A new study was presented in the Fisheries Committee on Monday.

“The proposal to establish fish stock recovery areas is one of the most essential proposals for fish stock recovery. They would be an excellent way of promoting the interests of small scale coastal fishers operating from small vessels,” professor Callum Roberts told the members of the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee.

In a new report, Callum Roberts has examined a large body of scientific research on marine reserves, in order to evaluate the proposal by Ulrike Rodust and the S&D group to establish fish stock recovery areas covering 10–20 % of the territorial waters of EU member states.

Evidence shows that protected areas around the world have produced rapid and long-lasting recovery of many commercially important species. They have also benefitted surrounding fisheries through spillover and export of offspring from protected stocks. The MSY target could be achieved more rapidly if protected areas were established, Roberts said.

MEPs Isabelle Thomas (S&D), Carmen Fraga (EPP) and Ian Hudghton (EFA) expressed fear that protected areas would cost too much, given that they need to be controlled and that some fishing opportunity is lost initially.

In response, Callum Roberts said that such costs would be repaid by the benefits produced by these protected areas. Catches have increased year by year in the waters around already established areas. Studies of protected areas in the Mediterranean have shown that profits from tourism, such as scuba diving, have been more than twice as large as the costs to manage the areas.

> Download the study: Establishment of fish stock recovery areas
> Download Professor Roberts’ presentation
> Watch the video from the session

This week MEPs also adopted two reports, one by Pat the Cope Gallagher (ALDE) on a proposal to extend the validity of the technical measures rules (range of rules governing how and where fishers may fish, which expire end of this year), and the other by Ian Hudghton (EFA) to extend the validity of the 12 nautical mile access regime. Both reports deal with transitional solutions until the entry into force of the new Regulation on the Common Fisheries Policy, currently awaiting first reading in the European Parliament.

Deep-sea fishing
The Commission presented its proposal to ban deep-sea trawling. The proposed regulation will be treated by the European Parliament over the next few months. The Commission noted that the effects would be limited to two or three large French trawlers which target deep-sea species. Other vessels that catch deep-sea species don’t have them as their main catch and won’t be affected.

Polarised positions could already be noted in the ensuing discussion among MEPs. French MEPs from both EPP and S&D said the proposal would have disastrous effects on the French deep-sea fleet. Other MEPs, including the rapporteur Kriton Arsenis (S&D), welcomed measures intended to protect vulnerable deep-sea species. Isabella Lövin (Greens) referred to ICES data which shows that deep-sea sharks are in a critical state.

A hearing on deep-sea fishing is scheduled to take place in the Fisheries Committee early next year.

Axel Naver

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