Europe and Central Asia
8 May 2020

BirdLife position paper: EU Fisheries Control Rules to protect the marine environment

© BirdLife Europe and Central Asia / Creative Commons
By Bruna Campos

Sensitive species such as seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles forage in highly productive areas of the ocean, which are also targeted by commercial fishing vessels. This overlap can cause them to be incidentally caught on hooks, or entangled in nets and cables, as well as being struck by vessels. It is estimated that every year across Europe more than 200,000 seabirds die as bycatch in fishing gears. Knowing when and where bycatch of sensitive species takes place enables governments to better monitor this threat and establish effective solutions to tackle it. 

However, very few fishing vessels have on-board observers or other reliable methods to monitor bycatch. The reporting of bycatch is generally poorly enforced on fishing vessels. Although EU Regulation (EU) 2017/1004 defines rules for the collection of data on the impact of fisheries on the wider ecosystem, including on the bycatch of sensitive species, the implementation of this regulation is dependent on the Control Regulation – particularly for what concerns fishing logbooks, fishing monitoring systems and remote electronic monitoring (REM).

Furthermore, where scientific evidence shows that there is a decline in the population of sensitive species as a result of bycatch, EU Regulation (EU) 2019/1241 requires that measures are put in place to tackle the problem. For example, these measures can include technical and operational changes to vessels and spatio-temporal fisheries restrictions (e.g. area/period closures).

Therefore, the EU must update its Control regulation to ensure that:

  1. Data is collected and mitigation rules are followed

  2. Inspections of fishing activity are aligned with technical and operational rules that are set out to mitigate fishing impact on the wider environment.

Read more in our latest position paper on EU Fisheries Control Rules to protect the marine environment by amending Council Regulation (EC) No 1224/2009. 

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.