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The European Union’s plan to ban bottom fishing is causing widespread outrage


A plan recently put forward by the European Commission to promote sustainable fisheries has met with a backlash. The plan aims to ban bottom trawling (trawling) in MPS by 2030, at the latest, and strong opposition may result in a relaxation of the plan’s terms and conditions.

And deep fishing is one of the types of fishing, in which huge and heavy nets are used, which move along the bottom and carry or crush everything that gets in their way.

The plan, which seeks to ban bottom trawling in protected areas, has caused widespread demonstrations, disruption of work in ports, and the launch of a protest movement by fishermen in France called “Blocked Ports”.


Although the Commission’s proposals do not represent new legislation, and will not be implemented soon in a way that satisfies some environmental protection non-governmental organizations, they have been met with strong opposition from a number of member states.

There was outrage in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Denmark, who feared the plan would endanger the entire fishing industry.

The “Marine Action Plan” for sustainable fishing was announced on February 12, and it includes initiatives to phase out deep-sea trawling in protected areas.

The plan aims to protect fish, shellfish, turtles and seabirds, which are threatened by the use of mobile bottom fishing gear (trawls, dredges, ropes and traps) in areas that will account for 30% of European waters by 2030.

destructive activity

The European Commission states: “Deep bottom trawling, in particular trawling, constitutes one of the most widespread and destructive activities of the sea floor and its associated habitats.”

Currently, about 79% of the nearshore sea floor is disturbed, mainly due to bottom trawling, and 25% of EU coastal areas may have lost marine habitats.

Spain, Italy and Germany accuse Brussels of “demonizing” trawling.

Finally, the Spanish government accused Brussels of “demonizing” trawling, and said that this type of fishing brings sustainable production and facilitates the recovery of fish stocks.

Spain’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Luis Planas, defended the need for a balance between environmental, economic and social factors for the future EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Disagreements between Spain and Brussels over a ban on trawling are not new.

In 2022, the Spanish government appealed to the European Court of Justice against the Commission’s system already in place, which required the closure of 87 trawling areas on the country’s Atlantic coast.

The Italian Minister of Agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, called for a meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries of the member states of the European Union on March 20 to “review the action plan.” ».

“The plan should be reviewed, in coordination with member states and the fishing industry,” Lollobrigida said. He also stressed the importance of “not punishing our fishing vessels with strict rules that cannot be applied to a third country,” referring to the southern Mediterranean countries.

He said, “It is necessary to ensure food security and sovereignty, without the need for ideological views, which require a state of deprivation for our business, compared to other countries in the same fishing basins.”

In the context of the dispute over the plans of the European Union, the German Minister of Agriculture, Cim Ozdemir, (from the Green Party), supports crab fishermen in his country, and says: “Scientific results have shown that fishing for crabs is quieter on the seabed than other forms of trawling.” In the depths”.

campaign against the ban

Özdemir is campaigning against a general ban on bottom fishing, and believes that the environmental repercussions of different fisheries should be taken into account in a differential way, as the relatively light nets used by lobster fishermen will be fixed to finer substrates, so that the sea floor and existing species recover more properly. Faster, compared to flounder fisheries, for example.

“A comprehensive ban would lead to a dead end, from which the affected lobster fishermen cannot escape,” the German minister said.

Despite this, Özdemir stressed that sustainable fishing efforts must be intensified, including more environmentally friendly bottom trawling rules.


Could the ban endanger the fishing industry?

According to the European Deepwater Fisheries Alliance (EPFA), imposing a ban would endanger 7,000 fishing vessels, meaning 25% of the fish caught and 38% of the total income of the European fleet.

According to the French National Fisheries Commission, this measure would lead to the disappearance of about “a third of the fleet”, or about 4,000 of the 1,200 fishing vessels in France.

In Spain, about 10% of fishing vessels use trawls, and the sector, led by the Spanish Fishing Federation, has warned of the repercussions on the economy and employment if Brussels imposes the proposed ban.

Restrictive fishing rules have thrown Germany’s Baltic Sea fisheries into crisis, with an EU-wide ban on trawling adding to the pressure.

Germany’s fisheries have struggled with many problems in recent years. For example, herring, which is important for Baltic fishermen, cannot currently be privately fished.

Overfishing, nutrients washed up in waterways, especially from agriculture, and climate change are also affecting fish stocks.

On the other hand, Ukraine called on fishermen to participate in an initiative to put a permanent end to fishing activities, by destroying fishing vessels or diverting them to activities away from commercial fishing.

The European Union provides funding for this plan, covering 70% of the costs, and Croatia bears the remaining 30%.

watered down plan

Initial measures are scheduled to enter into force at the end of March 2024. In response to a question, the European Commission stressed: “There is no automatic or complete ban on bottom trawling that will enter into force before March 2024.”

“The Action Plan for Sustainable Fisheries, presented by the European Commission, only proposes guidelines for member states,” said Herve Pervey, French Minister of State for Sea Affairs.

“We will ask member states to submit a road map by 2024, and we believe that they are all aware of the need to make progress on sustainable fisheries and ecosystem protection, especially in the Mediterranean,” the commission said.

“Many fishermen depend on a healthy seabed, but unfortunately, this continues to deteriorate across Europe,” she stressed.

French Minister of State for Maritime Affairs Herve Pervey:

“The Action Plan for Sustainable Fisheries, presented by the European Commission, merely proposes guidelines for member states.”

“The plan aims to protect fish, shellfish, turtles and seabirds, which are threatened by the use of mobile fishing equipment at depths (trawls, dredges, ropes and traps) in areas that will constitute 30% of European waters by 2030.”

“There was great outrage in Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland and Denmark, fearing that the plan would endanger the entire fishing industry.”