A plan to manage fishing efforts and preserve stocks in the Western Mediterranean Sea for demersal species was approved by MEPs on Thursday.

The new plan covering demersal fish stocks, such as shrimps and Norway lobsters, aims to ensure that stocks can be exploited while maintaining their reproductive capacity. It should be evaluated after the first 5 years and every 3 years thereafter. The text was agreed by 461 votes to 62, with 101 abstentions. It has already been informally agreed with EU ministers.

In the first year of the plan being implemented (2020), the maximum fishing effort should be reduced by 10% as compared to the fishing days allowed between 2012 and 2017. During the next four years, the maximum fishing effort shall be reduced by 30%.

The text also requests that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF) regulation be amended, so that fleet segments covered by the new rules should be able to benefit from compensation in case of a permanent stop of fishing activities.

The agreed rules will:

Apply to commercial and recreational fisheries as well as fish caught unintentionally (by-catch stock);

Implement co-management fisheries regimes between member states, local fisheries and other stakeholders;

Facilitate the implementation of the landing obligation;

Limit recreational fisheries when their impact on fishing mortality is too high;

Limit fishing to a maximum of 15 hours per fishing day (or 18 hours taking into account the transit time between port and the fishing ground).

Limit the use of trawls in coastal areas

MEPs approved a ban on the use of trawls within 6 nautical miles from the coast, except in areas deeper than the 100 m isobath during three months each year. Each member state will determine those three months of annual closure, according to the best available scientific advice to ensure at least a 20% reduction of catches of juvenile hake.

Following final adoption by the Council, the new rules will apply on the twentieth day after their publication on the Official Journal of the European Union (end of 2019).

This multi-annual plan is the fourth proposal adopted in line with the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) after the Baltic Sea, North Sea and Western Waters. The plan covers the western Mediterranean waters along the northern Alboran Sea, the Gulf of Lion and the Tyrrhenian Sea, including the Balearic Islands, Corsica and Sardinia. According to 2015 data, the fishing fleet concerned consists of almost 10.900 vessels from Italy (50%), Spain (39%) and France (11%). Demersal stocks in this area are six fish and crustacean species: blue and red shrimp, deep-water rose shrimp, giant red shrimp, European hake, Norway lobster and red mullet.

ALDE: EU-wide fish conservation measures are needed

The text aims at ensuring sustainable exploitations by introducing first EU-wide management measures for demersal species in the Western Mediterranean Sea. The ALDE group stressed today that even if the final text could have been more ambitious, the agreement is still a good step forward towards improving the current regulatory framework, which had proven to be ineffective, and hope that it will be endorsed today.

“This is not my proposal, this is not my plan. But it represents a step forward in avoiding real risks for stocks and for the future of coastal communities. Until now, the rules that manage fisheries and stock work state-by-state and do not avoid overfishing. Over 80% of the stocks in the Western Mediterranean are at risk of collapse. This plan now provides an EU management plan with fishing effort reductions and improves the area and period to be protected from trawlers fisheries. The rules to manage the Western Mediterranean need a reform and today’s vote is the only way forward to progress an unavoidable change,” said Izaskun Bilbao Barandica, Shadow rapporteur on this file, said ahead of today’s vote.