The agreement comes four years after the Commission published a proposal for a new regulation on deep-sea fishing in the north-east Atlantic Ocean and two and a half years since the Parliament agreed to its position.
Luxembourg, which held the rotating EU presidency for the second half of 2015, received a mandate from the Council of the EU’s 28 fisheries ministers in November to commence negotiations with the Parliament and Commission. Those discussions were concluded under The Netherlands, which assumed the presidency in January.
“This agreement goes a good way towards meeting the commitments made by the EU at the U.N. General Assembly and applying them to protect deep-sea ecosystems in EU waters,” said Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition.
“We urge vigorous implementation of the regulation once it is formally adopted and encourage the EU to continue working with other countries to enhance the protection of deep-sea ecosystems in international waters and to set science-based catch and bycatch limits for deep-sea fisheries in the north-east Atlantic.”
“Hundreds of scientists and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens called for limits to destructive deep-sea bottom trawling,” said Uta Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme.
“We welcome the decision by the Council and Parliament to heed this call, thank the Commission for its focus on deep-sea conservation, and congratulate the Luxembourg and Netherlands presidencies for securing this agreement.”
Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana in Europe, also welcomed the announcement: “We are eager to see this agreement formally adopted by the European institutions. Deep-sea species and habitats are the most vulnerable to overexploitation. The way deep-sea fisheries are regulated and managed is far from responsible. This ban on bottom trawling covering 4.9 million km2 –an area larger than the EU itself- will definitely set a major precedent in the protection of the vulnerable deep-sea.”
The Association of National Organisations of Fishing Enterprises in the EU, Europêche, however, said that the ban is arbitrary and only responds to political interests and not to real environmental threats.
President of Europêche, Javier Garat stated: "It is a pity that the EU has included an 800 meters ban since it undermines the legitimacy of the measures of the Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs), namely NEAFC, and repeats the mistake to demonise, without any scientific evidence, a highly regulated and effectively managed fishing gear by RFMOs and Member States. However, the rest of the regulation is acceptable to the sector, whose main aim is to carry out responsible and sustainable fishing activities."
Mr Garat continued: "The fishing grounds where the trawling fleets operate represent a relatively small portion of the ocean and are selected areas, which have been highly productive for decades and will remain so, if properly controlled and monitored, as it has been the case up until now."
The European Parliament and Council are expected to adopt the final regulation later this year.
You can read more on the ban, here.