New EU rules on how, where and when fish can be caught, were voted on Tuesday. MEPs inserted an amendment to ban the use of pulsed electric current for fishing.
The new law – updating and combining more than 30 regulations – would provide for common measures on fishing gear and methods, the minimum size of fish that may be caught and stopping or restricting fishing in certain areas or during certain periods. It also allows for tailor-made measures to be adapted to the regional needs of each sea basin.
An amendment calling for a total ban on the use of electric current for fishing (e.g. to drive fish up out of the seabed and into the net) was passed by 402 votes to 232, with 40 abstentions.
The EU rules, designed progressively to reduce juvenile catches, would, inter alia prohibit some fishing gear and methods; impose general restrictions on the use of towed gear and static nets (list fish and shellfish species for which fishing is banned
restrict catches of marine mammals, seabirds and marine reptiles, including special provisions to protect sensitive habitats; and ban practices such as “high-grading” (discarding low-priced fish even though they should legally be landed) in order to reduce discarding.
Regional measures would cover inter alia minimum conservation reference sizes, and closed or restricted areas. Member states and the Commission would have 18 months after the entry into force of the regulation to adopt regional rules on mesh sizes.
However, it would be possible to deviate from these regional rules, via a regional fisheries multiannual plan or, in the absence of such a plan, via a decision by the EU Commission. Member states could submit joint recommendations to this end, and MEPs ask them to “base their recommendations on the best available scientific advice”.
According to Rapporteur Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES), “The current state of standards is impractical, complex and rigid, so there is a need to revise the technical measures. Everyone agreed we needed simplification. We shouldn’t reinvent the rules, but rather make them clearer and more practical to implement for fishermen and others, with regionalization and results-based programming which is helpful for the fishermen, and national and local authorities being able to take decisions in line with the broad framework.”