After 18 months of negotiations, the Fisheries Committee of the EU parliament voted to put in place new measures that would effectively end overfishing and greatly improve the way the EU manages its fisheries, which have been historically some of the poorest managed, and most overfished in the world. In recent years, the majority of its scientifically-assessed fisheries have been found to be overexploited. The new measures include an obligation to set catch limits above maximum sustainable yield levels by 2015, in order for stocks to recover by 2020, and a clear ban on discards. Oceana has been campaigning for these changes for years. The new reforms now go to a vote before the entire European Parliament.
The EU voted in favor of strictly protecting 10 threatened species of sharks and rays in the Mediterranean Sea, under the Barcelona Convention. These species, including hammerheads, tope, and shortfin mako, have declined dramatically in numbers – some by as much as 99% during the last century – while others have vanished from parts of the Mediterranean where they were once common.
Fifteen years after the UN passed an international moratorium on driftnets, and seven years after the EU instituted a ban, Morocco has passed an amendment banning the use, possession, manufacture or sale of driftnets. The penalty for breaking Morocco’s new law ranges from three months to one year in prison and fines between approximately $550 and $110,000. Oceana has been working in Europe for years to stop the use of this illegal fishing gear in the Mediterranean.
The European Court of Justice condemned France for using illegal driftnets to catch bluefin tuna. Later in March, three owners of illegal driftnetting vessels in southern Italy were arrested after Oceana provided authorities with a variety of documentation and reported more than 150 vessels using this illegal fishing gear.
The Spanish government, after campaigning and consulting with Oceana, committed to advancing new shark legislation that would ban the catch of threatened hammerhead and thresher sharks, put in place catch limits for blue sharks and shortfin mako sharks and evaluate the viability of landing sharks whole with their fins attached. Spain is one of the largest shark catching and exporting countries in the world.
The European Court of Justice rejected any further requests by the French government for exemptions from the EU ban on driftnetting in the Mediterranean Sea. This ruling will spare 25,000 juvenile bluefin tuna annually, along with 10,000 non-targeted marine species caught annually in the driftnets.
Oceana and other members of the Shark Alliance scored a major victory for sharks in the European Parliament when the Parliament decided to reject a recommendation from its own Fisheries Committee to increase the allowable ratio of shark fins to bodies from 5 percent to 6.5 percent.
A new law was passed by the European Union that imposes criminal sanctions, including heavy fines and even jail terms, for the owners, operators and financiers of boats that illegally dump oily waters and residues into the sea. The new law could prevent as much as 20,000,000 tons of polluting substances from getting into the ocean every year – the single biggest reduction in oil pollution in decades, anywhere in the world.