European Parliament makes the right move for Baltic fisheries

The European Parliament has made a move to stop overfishing in the Baltic and save marine seabirds and mammals.

We fish too much, often in the wrong places and the wrong time of the year. And whilst doing it we kill an incredible number of non-commercial fish, seabirds and marine mammals. Recently some good news has come from the European Parliament. On March 31st 2015, Members of the Fisheries Committee voted in favour of attaining Good Environmental Status (GES) of our seas by stopping overfishing and minimising the impact of fisheries activities on marine mammals and seabirds.

The new mandate from the Fisheries Committee will ensure that catch limits are set below the maximum allowable limit (FMSY) that is advised by scientists. Staying below this limit is critical to ensuring that commercial fish stocks do not collapse because of overfishing. Setting catch limits gives fish populations a chance to be naturally restored and maintained above levels capable of producing maximum sustainable yield (BMSY), and therefore helping prevent fish stock collapses and eventual economic struggles.

On top of this, the Fisheries Committee has also made important changes that will make sure that remedial measures, such as changes in net mesh size or closure of specific areas to fishing, are adopted before it is too late. This is in contrast with the European Commission that only proposed such actions to be taken when a stock had almost crashed, so a little too late to do anything about it.

Overall, the document approved in the Committee contrasts the plan that was proposed by the European Commission, which was not only incoherent with the objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (laws that support sustainable fishing across the EU), but also lacked safeguards for achieving sustainable fisheries management.

The management of Baltic fisheries will now be aligned to match the objectives of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (which aim for healthy and productive seas across the EU). This is really an important step forward for conservation. It will help ensure that commercial fish stocks are managed sustainably, and will also consider impacts such as the incidental catch of flatfish, seabirds and marine mammals.

The report from the Fisheries Committee will go to plenary on the 28th of April for a mandate from the whole European Parliament to start negotiations with the Council. This should be a clear signal to the Council that implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy is going ahead. The Council is expected to take a position on this the 20th of April. Will Member States also follow the same sustainable line? We will soon find out.

 Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe

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