European trawlers are destroying the oceans

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June, 2004

Nearly 100,000 vessels make up the European Union fishing fleet. This includes boats that fish both in EU waters (the domestic fleet), in the waters of other countries and in international waters (the deep-sea fleet). In addition, there is an unknown number of vessels belonging to other European countries that are not members of the EU which could approach a figure half that of the EU fleet.

The majority of these vessels sail under the flag of a European country but there are also boats, particularly those fishing on the high seas, which despite being managed, chartered or part owned by European companies, use the flag of the country where they catch their fish or sail under flags of convenience (FOCs).

The Fisheries Commission has called for a reform of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) to achieve a reduction of 40% in the EU fishing capacity, as forecasts show that by simply following the approved multi-annual plans, barely 8.5% of vessels and 18% of gross tonnage would be decommissioned; an achievement very distant from scientific recommendations.

Moreover, from among these almost 100,000 vessels, the EU is home to a particularly damaging fleet: the 15,000 trawlers that operate in European waters, as well as those of third countries or those fishing on the high seas. These trawlers are overexploiting marine resources and irreversibly damaging some of the most productive and biodiverse ecosystems on the planet.

The 40% reduction called for by the Commission could be easily achieved if the primary objective of this proposal was focused both on eliminating the most destructive fishing techniques and reducing fishing overcapacity. A significant reduction in trawler fleets would enable a dramatic reduction in the fishing effort, the conservation of marine ecosystems and the establishment of a European Union fishing policy with a future. Failing to address the problems posed by the trawler fleet and ceding to pressure from their lobbies will mean perpetuating the destruction of ecosystems and marine resources, and condemning tens of thousands of fishermen to a more than uncertain future.

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