Why we need data from the fishing and aquaculture communities

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The famous American writer Maya Angelou once said “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

Knowing better depends on better access to facts, to data. And when we’re talking about the marine environment, data from the fishing and aquaculture communities and their activities is the gold standard.

That is why it’s so disturbing that current EU regulations don’t foresee all of this data being collected.

  • For example, this means that that when a bird is accidentally caught, fishermen don’t need to report it. We can’t fix this problem if we don’t know where, when, and why seabirds are being caught and if we can’t fix the problem, seabird populations will continue to plummet.

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The EU is one step closer to eliminating seabird bycatch

A bycaught Cory's Shearwater. Photo: John J Borg
A bycaught Cory’s Shearwater. Photo: John J Borg

11 March was a historic day for European seabirds. After years of dialogue, the European Commission has proposed a new legislation that will make it mandatory for all fishing vessels in the EU that incidentally catch seabirds to put in place measures to stop them from doing so.

Seabirds forage in areas of the ocean that are rich in fish, which are also targeted by commercial fishing vessels. This overlap can cause seabirds to be accidentally caught on hooks or entangled in nets meant for the fish. It is estimated that at least 200,000 seabirds are accidentally caught annually in EU waters. This includes species on the verge of extinction such as the Balearic Shearwater. However, until today the EU had not enacted any legally binding legislation for fishers to solve this problem. This proposed legislation is a game changer.

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First steps to harmony between gulls and mussel farms in France

© Pauline Loubat/ LPO
Gulls are considered responsible for production losses by mussel farmers and killed to keep them away from their farms. © Pauline Loubat/ LPO

The Atlantic coast of France (in particular the Charente-Maritime County) and its islands are hubs for the shellfish industry and mussel farms. Among these farms, some are found on the east coast of Oléron Island, within the Moeze-Oléron National Nature Reserve, close to nesting colonies of gulls, much to the farmers’ dismay. Mussel farmers in the county have been reporting production losses for several years, which they say is largely because of these seabirds.

According to a perception survey carried out in 2013, depradation by gulls, and especially by the Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), is being held accountable for up to 30% of the production loss. As a result, farmers have developed techniques to scare gulls away, even practicing illegal shootings in order to use the gulls’ carcasses as scarecrows on the mussel farms.

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Will EU Fisheries Ministers make the right move for the Baltic?

In the upcoming EU AgriFish Council meeting on the 20th of April, Fisheries Ministers will discuss the Commission’s proposal for the Baltic multi-annual plan (MAP) [2014/0285 (COD)], and in particular the Presidency proposal for a compromise. NGOs are now urgently urging Member States to adhere to the binding objectives of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) and especially to be mindful of the Fisheries Committee vote of 31st March.

So what should Fisheries Ministers carefully address?

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