On Tuesday 25 May, the Committee on Fisheries confirmed the political deal with the Council establishing new conservation and enforcement measures for fisheries in the NAFO Regulatory Area.
The agreement, backed by almost unanimity (27 votes in favour, none against and one abstention), will allow for the quick transposition into the UE legal framework of the legally binding rules adopted by the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) in its annual meetings of 2019 and 2020.
The new measures include a complete ban on fishery for Greenland shark (Somniosus microcephalus) in the NAFO Regulatory Area, as well as measures to minimize incidental catch and mortality of this endangered species. When catch alive, Greenland sharks shall be released in a manner that causes the least possible harm. The co-legislators also agreed on new technical requirements for catching certain species. Nets used for shrimps and prawns shall have a minimum mesh size of 40 mm, whilst trawl fishing for cod in Division 3M shall use a sorting grid with a minimum bar spacing of 55 mm to reduce catches of smaller individuals. The fishing of cod from Division 3M will be subject to systematic landing inspections. Member states will also have to conduct inspections on each landing of Greenland halibut and submit inspection reports with all relevant information with regard to infringements detected at sea for both species to the NAFO Executive Secretary, the Commission and the European Fisheries Control Agency (EFCA). Moreover, the prohibition of bottom fishing activities in some divisions of NAFO Regulatory Area is extended for one more year, until 31 December 2021.
The agreed text introduces into EU rules the definition of fishing vessel used by NAFO. This will allow European control and enforcement authorities to work in line with other NAFO contracting parties and to improve the information flow between the Member States’ fisheries authorities, the Commission and NAFO Secretary. Finally, the regulation acknowledges the role of EFCA in the coordination of inspection means deployed within the NAFO Joint Inspection and Surveillance Scheme.
“NAFO Convention has very demanding and tight conservation and enforcement rules, which is vital to protect very sensitive species such as the Greenland shark, the most long-lived known vertebrate. The EU should always push for the adoption of rules that match the ambition of its Common Fisheries Policy’s goals and of international instruments such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals”, rapporteur Isabel Carvalhais (S&D, PT) stated.
The text adopted today will amend Regulation (EU) 2019/833 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 20 May 2019, which lays down conservation and enforcement measures applicable in the NAFO regulatory area. The Commission published a legislative proposal on 29 May 2020 and the European Parliament adopted a decision to enter into negotiations with the Council on 25 November 2020. The trilogue was conducted through an exchange of letters and concluded with a deal on 19 May 2021.