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EU Fisheries Commissioner Adds to Oceana Event

GLOBAL - Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, has contibuted to an event organised by Oceana that discusses fisheries management as an ecosystem-based approach.

The event 'The implementation of the ecosystem-based approach - A revolution for fisheries management and A challenge for the Common Fisheries Policy', hosted by Guido Milana, Member of the European Parliament, was organised by Oceana.

The objective of the seminar is to exchange views on the changes in fisheries management that are necessary for truly implementing the ecosystem-based approach.

Ms Damanaki welcomed the initiative and wished to contribute to the discussion on this topical issue with some thoughts:

"The Commission's main policy objectives are to provide for the conservation on fish stocks with a view to ensuring their long-term sustainability and for the fishing sector dependent on these stocks. Within this objective it is also necessary to keep fisheries impacts within sustainable bounds, by including all knowledge we have about the interactions between fisheries and marine ecosystems. Decisions taken in fisheries should also be consistent with and supportive of actions taken under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Habitats Directive...

"To do this, fisheries management should firstly reduce the overall level of fishing pressure to sustainable levels, and in particular to allow fish stocks to rebuild to maximum sustainable yield levels as according to the "Johannesburg" commitment. This will be done by means of continued implementation of long term plans and a sustained effort to eliminate discards. This will reduce mortality of fish, crustaceans, seabirds and sea mammals as well as impacts on habitats.

"In addition, we must protect sensitive habitats: those which may be fragile with respect to fishing gear, particularly where the habitats and their dwellers are small and special, or where they may take many years to recover from damage (such as corals). Here, fisheries management must take account of the "Natura 2000" network of marine protected areas that is presently being developed and implemented.

"The next element is the protection of sensitive species, which may be vulnerable because they have been fished down to low levels, or because of their life history. Long-lived, and slow-growing and slow-maturing species are in particular need of protection.

"Furthermore, it is necessary to make sure that we prevent distortions in food webs and ensure that natural ecosystem processes are not disrupted. For example, exploitation of sandeels near to seabird breeding colonies may require specific measures to make sure that breeding success is not threatened.

"Member States are currently developing their assessments of good environmental status and associated targets and indicators under the MSFD. These will be reported to the Commission by 15 July this year. After completion of this phase of the MSFD, the Commission will begin adapting fisheries legislation to ensure compatibility with the environmental and ecosystem criteria."

Lucy Towers

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