PRESS RELEASE: The Irish Wildlife Trust welcomes report adopted by the European Parliament calling for urgent action on bottom-contacting fishing gear, but questions why majority of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) would not support a ban on bottom trawling in Marine Protected Areas
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted an Own Initiative Report by MEP Isabel Carvalhais called “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU” on 3rd of May. The original text of the report calling for a ban on bottom trawling in all Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) was not adopted, even though it had previously been supported in the Fisheries Committee of the European Parliament – a first for this committee. Instead, the majority of MEPs, including Irish Fine Gael and Sinn Féin representatives, voted to dilute the text and only restrict bottom trawling in so-called ‘strictly protected’ areas, which cover only 1% of EU waters. Curiously, another amendment which calls for the EU to prohibit all environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities ‘such as mining and fossil fuel extraction’ in marine protected areas, was adopted by all Irish MEPs. The Irish Wildlife Trust (IWT) is of the opinion that bottom trawling falls within the category of ‘environmentally damaging extractive industrial activities’. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (of which the Irish National Parks and Wildlife Service is a member) defines “industrial fishing” as all fishing using trawling gear that is dragged or towed across the seafloor or through the water column, and fishing using purse seines and large longlines.
Speaking from Strasbourg today, shadow rapporteur for the Greens/EFA group Grace O’Sullivan said “This report marks a serious step forward for the Fisheries Committee, which is a traditionally tough place to get environment protection legislation passed. Our Group achieved some key wins in terms of language on bottom-trawling, mapping carbon rich marine habitats, and a ban on extractive activities in MPAs. However I am dismayed that a majority of MEPs are still unwilling to effectively protect Marine Protected Areas. In many MPAs in northern Europe, bottom-trawling is actually more intense than elsewhere. This is a complete contradiction in terms. Together with civil society our work continues now, as Member States must meet commitments under the Biodiversity Strategy and as the Commission prepares its ‘Action Plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems’.”
The European Parliament also voted to map and restore carbon-rich marine habitats, protecting them from activities that can disturb and release carbon stored in the seabed, like bottom trawling. Regina Classen, Marine Policy and Research Officer at the IWT says “This amendment is particularly welcome and timely as Ireland plans to increase its MPA coverage to 30% by 2030. The Irish Programme for Government promised to ‘evaluate and implement plans to realise the carbon sink potential of our marine environment, based on the introduction of Marine Protection Areas”. It is questionable, however, how carbon sinks can be protected if bottom trawling continues to be allowed inside MPAs.” Fine Gael MEPs Clune, Fitzgerald, Kelly, Markey and Walsh as well as Fianna Fáil’s Kelleher and Sinn Féin’s MacManus voted against this important carbon storage amendment, which is a direct contradiction of national commitments to climate action.
The European Commission has been given a clear signal that it should make ambitious proposals in its draft budget, Action Plan to restore fisheries resources and protected marine ecosystems, and the EU Nature Restoration Law, which are all due to be published before the summer.
– The Irish Wildlife Trust was founded in 1979 as a charitable conservation body. We provide the public with information about wildlife, run education and training programs, carry out habitat and species surveys, campaign and lobby around biodiversity issues, restore natural habitats, consult with industry, agriculture and Local Authorities to maintain our natural heritage and contribute to national and international forums for the protection of biodiversity. The IWT is a nationwide organisation with a strong membership base, staff and Board of Directors, with branches in Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Laois/Offaly, Limerick, Waterford & Monaghan.
– As it stands, less than 1% of EU waters are actually protected from destructive fishing like bottom trawling, through measures such as no-take zones. Research published in Nature, covering 727 EU marine protected areas, found that on average trawling is 1.4 times greater there compared to in non-protected areas. The dire situation of European MPAs clashes with the standards of marine protection produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which clearly state that no destructive fishing or industrial extractive activities should be allowed in any MPA.
– The report that was voted on is titled Own-initiative report 2021/2188(INI) by the Portuguese Socialist MEP Isabel Carvalhais: “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU: the role of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors“.
Contact: Regina Classen, firstname.lastname@example.org