Fishing affecting sea bed "should be banned"

European Parliament calls for end to trawler fishing, fails to back extension of Natura network

The EU should ban any fishing that harms the sea bed, the European Parliament said yesterday. The demand is one of several recommendations aimed at reducing the environmental impact of fisheries as the European Commission prepares to draft a new EU common fisheries policy, for introduction in 2002.

In what environmentalists describe as a "radical" initiative, the parliament's response to a Commission communication on fisheries and nature conservation (ENDS Daily 21 July 1999) calls for an end to fishing that "alters the nature of the sea bed." It also calls for a ban on any fishing that "destroys fish spawn" or "does not select the target species to the full extent that is possible."

If the Commission were to pursue the Parliament's calls, the future of all forms of coastal fishing using trawlers - such as the beam trawlers used extensively by Belgian and Dutch fleets - would be cast into doubt. EU fishing industry bodies have yet to respond to the Parliament's report.

MEPs also called on the Commission to continue fishing fleet reduction programmes and stressed the "absolute necessity" of maintaining ceilings on fish catches. Late last year ministers announced the most restrictive ceilings for many years (ENDS Daily 17 December 1999).

However, the assembly did not endorse a Commission suggestion that the EU's Natura 2000 nature protection network should be extended to the marine environment to help reduce environmental impacts of fishing. Environmental groups have argued that the move is essential to protect the marine environment; last year, Greenpeace won a court action forcing the UK government to apply the EU habitats directive up to 200 miles from shore instead of only in a 12-mile zone (ENDS Daily 5 November 1999).

MEPs added that new fish farms should only be established if an environmental impact assessment gave them the all-clear, and that companies running fish farms should be forced to "clean the sea bed" in the area covered by their operations.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111, and see Fisheries Management and the Marine Environment.

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