European Parliament votes on North Sea fishing regulations

September 14th, 2017

The European Parliament today voted to give the green light to plans that could end overfishing in the North Sea and ensure more secure livelihoods for fishermen.

MEPs voted in Brussels today in favour of a strong North Sea multi-annual plan (NSMAP) which aims to ensure the sustainable exploitation of demersal species (those living near the seafloor) such as cod, haddock, and sole.

The Parliament will now enter into negotiations with the EU Council of Ministers and the Commission to agree on the final terms of the NSMAP, which is expected to come into force early next year.

Demersal species make up 70 per cent of the catch in the North Sea. The new rules will establish sustainable catch-limits and quotas for the North Sea, where nearly 50 per cent of assessed fish stocks are overexploited.

Recreational fishing with a large impact on stocks will now also be subject to the same sustainable fishing rules as commercial fishing.

When scientific evidence indicates that a stock is in danger, the new plan aims to reduce fishing opportunities to allow that stock to recover.

NGOs welcome news

Environmental groups have been highly critical of the European Commission’s NSMAP proposals, which, they say, would have allowed for fishing at unsustainable mortality ranges for several stocks.

In the run-up to the vote, Europe’s leading environmental NGOs called on MEPs to vote for a robust, long-term NSMAP and largely welcomed today’s outcome.

Andrew Clayton of the Pew Charitable Trusts said that MEPs have “stepped in to defend the ambitious fisheries reforms” and “hold reluctant fisheries ministers to account” for EU commitments agreed upon four years ago.

According to Mr Clayton, the final plan, once agreed upon, has the potential “to end overfishing in the North Sea and provide healthy stocks as well as productive fisheries”.

Marine conservation group, Oceana, congratulated MEPs for taking “a step in the right direction” by voting for a strong NSMAP.

Oceana’s European Executive Director Lasse Gustavsson said that the Parliament’s proposal could help ensure an “abundance of fish” and provide a model for future fisheries management plans.

ClientEarth lawyer Flaminia Tacconi said that MEPs have sent a strong message to industry, consumers and national governments by resisting pressure to dilute EU fisheries law.

“Lower ambitions now would lead to sharp shocks in the very near future, so we applaud the Parliament’s commitment to sustainable seas”, Ms Tacconi added.

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