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Demersal fisheries in the western Mediterranean Sea: provisional agreement on new multiannual plan

Met dank overgenomen van Roemeens voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2019 (Roemeens voorzitterschap), gepubliceerd op dinsdag 5 februari 2019.

The western Mediterranean Sea will soon have new tools in place to tackle overfishingand ensure the sustainability of a vital and economically important fisheries.

The presidency of the Council today reached a provisional agreement with European Parliament’s representatives on a new regulation establishing a multiannual management plan for demersal stocks (i.e. those that live at the bottom of the sea) in the western Mediterranean Sea.

Thanks to the constructive attitude of the three institutions, this provisional agreement was reached less than a year after the Commission published its initial proposal. It will however still need to be formally confirmed by both the Council and the European Parliament.

This is a historic plan, the 1st EU wide management plan for this basin. It has the merit of being ambitious but also balanced, as it takes into account our duty to tackle overfishing, as well as the need to show equal respect for environmental and socio economic considerations.

Petre Daea, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Romania and President of the Council

The western Mediterranean Sea only accounts for around 31% of the total Mediterranean landings but its demersal fisheries have a high commercial value. This is one of the reasons why over 80% of the assessed stocks are currently overfished in the region [1].

In order to ensure both the environmental and socio-economic sustainability of fisheries in this basin, as well as the implementation of the landing obligation, thereby complying with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), the agreed MAP will:

  • impose to set quantifiable fishing efforts for the key fish stocks within Fmsy ranges. Fmsy is the fishing mortality consistent with achieving maximum sustainable yield, one of the cornerstones of the reformed CFP
  • aim to implement MSY (maximum sustainable yield) as possible as of 2020 and, where not possible, incrementally
  • foresee specific technical conservation measures, covering all stocks and including recreational fisheries, through regionalisation, in line with the Western Waters plan
  • allow for some flexibility for managing by-catches to take account of mixed fisheries
  • make as such that each year, on the basis of scientific advice, the Council would decide the maximum number of fishing days for each fleet category by member state
  • set a three-month annual closure, based on the best scientific advice, for trawlers operating in sea beds up to 100m deep, to reserve the coastal zone for more selective gears, thereby protecting sensitive habitats, and enhancing the social sustainability of small-scale fisheries.
  • regional cooperation will be established between France, Italy and Spain with a view to submitting joint recommendations for certain measures to be taken by the Commission on issues such as the landing obligation and technical conservation

While taking into account the specificities of the Mediterranean Sea, the agreement follows the principles set in out in the Baltic, North Sea and Adriatic multiannual plans, thereby ensuring consistency across sea basins and a level-playing field for all fishermen.

Next steps

If this agreement is confirmed by EU ambassadors in the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper), the regulation will then be submitted for approval by the European Parliament and then back to the Council for final adoption.

The new rules will apply on the twentieth day after their publication on the Official Journal of the European Union (end of 2019).

Background

The western Mediterranean Sea covers the western Mediterranean Sea waters, which extend along the Northern Alboran Sea, the Gulf of Lion and the Tyrrhenian Sea, covering the Balearic archipelago and the islands of Corsica and Sardinia and concerns mainly France, Italy and Spain.

The new regulation will replace the existing national management plans adopted by Italy, France and Spain, which have proved so far not to be restrictive enough.

[1] Monitoring the performance of the Common Fisheries Policy (STECF-17-04)


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