The European Commission’s new Communication on “Protecting and Restoring Marine Ecosystems for Sustainable and Resilient Fisheries”, which calls for the phasing out of bottom trawling by 2030 in marine protected areas (MPAs), is a good move towards protecting our marine environment. Bottom trawling is the harmful fishing method of dragging heavy nets along the ocean floor, which destroys delicate marine ecosystems and habitats. It is in fact inconceivable that this practice is still allowed (and will continue to happen for 7 years) in the EU’s marine “protected” areas.
Nevertheless, the Commission’s decision to phase out this damaging practice by 2030 in MPAs sends a strong message that the EU is committed to sustainable fishing and protecting our oceans. It is an essential step towards ensuring the health and resilience of our marine ecosystems, which are critical for the survival of numerous species and for the future of the fisheries sector. Member States must now not only implement the Commission’s proposal to prohibit mobile bottom fishing but also take additional action to eliminate other harmful fishing practices and promote more sustainable fishing methods.
Sustainable Fishing Practices And Marine Ecosystems
Contrary to the claims of some Members of the European Parliament and a few actors in the fisheries sector, banning bottom trawling by 2030 is not a harmful move. In fact, sustainable fishing practices are essential for the long-term health of our marine ecosystems and the sustainability of the fisheries sector itself. The negative impacts of bottom trawling, among which the destruction of habitats and the depletion of fish stocks, are well documented. Fishes are a finite resource (to put it in economic terms) and without fishes, there will be no fishers. Additionally, the Commission’s plan provides targeted financial support, through the EMFAF and other EU funds, to help fisheries transition to more sustainable practices. Although a ban on bottom trawling might have limited short-term impacts for those engaged in this activity, they can be mitigated through targeted financial support and assistance to transition towards more sustainable fishing methods and other activities. Furthermore, consumers increasingly prefer sustainably sourced seafood, and a shift towards more sustainable fishing practices can create new market opportunities for the sector. Overall, banning bottom trawling by 2030 in MPAs is a necessary and positive step towards a more sustainable future.
I would also like to highlight the work of Commissioner Sinkevicius, who has been doing a good job in promoting ocean protection and sustainable fisheries. Since taking office, he has demonstrated a strong commitment to addressing the pressing environmental challenges facing our oceans. While, in our perspective, there is still much work to be done, the Commission’s efforts are a crucial first step towards ensuring the long-term health and resilience of our oceans. However, we now need legislative proposals on these matters, as soon as possible.
In conclusion, the initiative to ban bottom trawling by 2030 in MPAs is a positive step towards protecting our oceans, but we must continue to push for more ambitious policies and actions, especially from Member States. Protecting our oceans is not only essential for the survival of countless species but also critical for our own well-being and the sustainability of the fisheries sector.