European Parliament calls for action on bottom fishing and true protection for EU’s marine protected areas
Press Release Date: May 3, 2022
Emily Fairless | email: email@example.com | tel: Emily Fairless
Today, 3 May 2022, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) adopted by XX votes in favour and XX votes against an extremely important amendment calling on the European Union to ban bottom trawling in all marine protected areas. The plenary vote of the Own-Initiative Report of MEP Mrs. Isabel Carvalhais “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU”  gave the opportunity to address the pressing issue of destructive fishing going on in so-called marine “protected” areas. This result, although not legally binding, is politically very timely and is an important first step towards a legal prohibition of destructive fishing methods in EU marine protected areas (MPAs). We now call on the European Commission to listen to the European Parliament and phase out bottom trawling, starting in marine protected areas, in their upcoming publication of the Action Plan to conserve fisheries resources and protect marine ecosystems, as part of the Biodiversity Strategy package, which is due in the coming weeks. As it stands, less than 1% of EU waters are actually protected from destructive fishing, like bottom trawling, in the form of highly protected MPAs such as no-take zones or marine reserves. The dire situation of European MPAs clashes with the standards of marine protection produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which clearly state that no destructive fishing nor industrial extractive activities should be allowed in any marine protected area. The coalition of NGOs, including BLOOM, OCEANA, Environmental Justice Foundation, Seas at Risk, Our Fish and many others, who mobilized for the vote now calls on the European Commission to swiftly produce a legislative proposal in order to ensure that the EU’s marine protected areas comply with these standards. Banning bottom trawling is an important political signal, but a legally binding instrument should go further by encompassing all International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) criteria and delivering effective protection for EU MPAs. After massive citizen mobilization and pressure by civil society, including a BLOOM video, Emmanuel Macron’s political group “RENEW” in the European Parliament failed to defend a harmful amendment that sought to undermine the IUCN protection standards and to dramatically weaken the EU’s environmental ambition on MPAs. The amendment from President Macron’s group was defeated by a broader coalition of progressives, including from the Socialists, the Left/GUE, the Greens and some progressive MEPs from Renew. The RENEW harmful amendment was REJECTED by XX votes to XX. In the coming days, NGOs will produce an analysis of the vote to clarify who supported the bottom trawl prohibition in MPAs. This analysis will allow citizens to identify the group of “MEPs 4 MPAs”, as per the NGO coalition’s tagline, that have shown true ambition for the restoration of marine habitats and biodiversity and for the protection of the climate. When Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) experts call for immediate and resolute action to save the planet from becoming no longer inhabitable, the elected politicians that turn words to deeds become anchors of citizen hope. As we head towards the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon, European Commission Executive Vice President Frans Timmermans and Environment & Fisheries Commissioner Sinkevičius must pick up this baton from the European Parliament and finally end Europe’s shameful bottom trawling record by banning destructive fisheries and industrial extractive activities in marine protected areas, starting with the upcoming publication of the Action Plan on marine ecosystems and fisheries expected before the summer.
* Ends *
References  Own-initiative report 2021/2188(INI) by the Portuguese Socialist MEP Isabel Carvalhais: “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU: the role of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors”.