Fishing industry bodies have reacted with alarm to proposals for further cuts to Mediterranean fishing effort proposed by the European Commission.
According to Europêche, the industry has complied fully with the requirements of the Multiannual Management Plan (MAP) of demersal fisheries in the Western Mediterranean which regulates mainly trawlers, from Italy, France and Spain. At the time, the industry criticised the introduction of severe spatial-seasonal trawl closures and the harsh reduction of the activity at sea from the first year of implementation of the new rules.
“The industry has complied with these measures even though they undermined the viability of the Mediterranean fleets. Fishermen, now facing the consequences of the COVID-19, fear further cuts which would lead to a considerable decline in the number of fishing vessels, jobs and fish supply,” said Europêche managing director Daniel Voces, commenting that EU legislators had agreed that MSY levels should be achieved on a progressive basis by 2025, in consideration of the socio-economic impact a faster achievement may have.
“The sector has scrupulously complied with the area closures and the target of reducing fishing effort by 10% during the first year of implementation of the plan. Certain trawl fleets in Spain even reached reduction levels above 20%. Now we hear that the European Commission is considering cutting fishing effort in 2021 for EU trawlers operating in the Western Mediterranean by 15%, disregarding the flexibility to achieve MSY levels by 2025,” he said.
“This would definitely put a final nail in the coffin of many fishermen in the Mediterranean. Our fishermen more than ever need to keep working to overcome the catastrophic socio-economic consequences brought about by this pandemic – which is putting European economies to the test, and which could bring about the closure of HORECA channels, lack of tourism, extremely low fish prices and health problems. Europêche is calling on the European Commission to be sensitive and as flexible as possible in the implementation of the newly adopted MAP in a way that does not aggravate the socio-economic consequences caused by this pandemic.”