The European Commission’s intention to drastically reduce – even ban – bottom-contacting fishing gears is no secret. But the implications of such a decision are often disregarded.
The ETF favours more sustainable fisheries, as fishers – the true guardians of the sea – are fully aware that the sustainability of fish stocks and marine ecosystems are key in preserving their income, jobs and future generations’ jobs. Having said that, bottom-contacting fishing gears have different impacts on various sea beds, and not in all cases, the fishing operations cause permanent damage. Furthermore, thousands of fishers work in this sector, and their livelihoods depend on such fishing practices.
The European Commission, with the recent Implementing Regulation (EU) 2022/1614 of 15 September 2022, effectively bans bottom-contacting gears from 87 European marine areas, a part of which are traditional fishing areas. It has been done without proper consultation of the relevant stakeholders and without taking into account the socio-economic consequences of such a decision. This happens in a sector that has been hit by many restrictive decisions in the past and has faced many crises, the latter being the skyrocketing fuel price. Additionally, in the last years, efforts have been made to upgrade fishing gears to improve selectivity and reduce the overall impact on marine ecosystems.
The ETF considers the measure disproportionate and stresses that socio-economic consequences are simply ignored. One of the pillars of the Common Fisheries Policy is social sustainability, but the human element of fisheries is neglected.
70% of the fish products consumed in the European Union are imported from third countries. This percentage is enormous, although fish is considered indispensable for a healthy diet. Measures such as the Implementing Regulation 2022/1614 not only put even more pressure on a sector struggling to stay alive but also give a competitive advantage to countries that do not adopt such measures and then sell their products to the EU.