Multiannual plan for demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean

EESC opinion: Multiannual plan for demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean

Key points:

  • The EESC agrees with the Commission that a multi-annual plan should be adopted for demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean that includes measures capable of reversing the overfishing of most populations of demersal species for which data is available. To this end, the Committee considers the use of a fishing effort regime based on fishing days and by management unit (GSA) for trawling to be appropriate and welcomes the possibility of introducing a catch limit (TACs) system in the event of failure of management by effort.
  • The EESC considers that the plan's objective should be to secure sustainable fisheries from the triple environmental, social and economic point of view. The measures adopted must therefore be proportionate, so that the socio-economic impact is manageable and viable for Mediterranean fishermen. Given the scheduled adoption and entry into force of the proposal (not before mid-2019), it will be difficult to achieve the maximum sustainable yield (MSY) for all populations in 2020. The Committee nevertheless supports the EU's international commitment to reach the MSY by 2020. Its importance as part of the multiannual plan is central, especially for the most over-exploited species at risk of biological collapse. MSY for all populations should therefore be achieved according to a more realistic and reasonable timetable.
  • While recognising the specific regional features of its fisheries, the EESC considers that the Mediterranean's "particular" character requires that action now be taken on fisheries reform, and recommends that the co-legislators support an appropriate management regime that ensures fairness between European maritime regions and enables the Mediterranean region to fully achieve the objectives of the common fisheries policy.
  • The Committee acknowledges the considerable reduction in the number of fishing vessels in recent years, but nevertheless regrets that the fishing sector's efforts have not succeeded in reducing real fishing mortality for key stocks. This is due in particular to the structural overcapacity of some fleet segments, especially trawlers, and fishing efficiency gains from the modernisation of fisheries engines, gear and technology.
  • The EESC urges the Commission to take account of the other factors and human activities that affect the state of fish populations and ecosystems in the Mediterranean, and proposes that it adopt measures judged capable of reducing their impact on fish populations.
  • Since the Mediterranean is a semi-enclosed sea with 22 coastal countries, most of them non-EU, the Committee recommends that the Commission make every effort to coordinate measures for managing shared species with the other countries, especially within the framework of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM).
  • Against a backdrop of serious overfishing in the region, the EESC recognises the need for specific spatio-temporal restriction measures for trawls, the main gear used by the fisheries covered by the plan, in order to substantially reduce the impact - when necessary according to scientific reports - on unwanted catches of demersal species, especially juveniles, and on essential fish habitants (spawning and nursery grounds).
  • The Committee recommends that the co-legislators remove the prohibition on the use of trawls within the 100 m isobath from 1 May to 31 July each year.
  • The Committee recommends that the Commission propose including extraordinary flanking measures to offset the losses fishermen will suffer with the reduced effort and fishing mortality. It would be beneficial to broaden support for temporary cessation and to look again at support for permanent cessation.