Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 16 January

Last minute gains but death knell still sounds for marine life as MEPs approve flawed regulation. Commission should pull the plug!

The European Parliament voted today to continue allowing the drowning of turtles in fishing gear and the capture of juvenile fish before they can reproduce. Despite a last minute step back from authorising electric fishing and removing all safeguards for seabirds and marine mammals, the approved text is still extremely weak and will fail to stop even the most harmful practices. Crucially, the Commission would be powerless to impose management measures if Member States fail to do so. The Parliament has towed the destructive line of the industrial fishing lobby – against the demands of sustainable fishermen and environmentalists [1].

If both the European Council and the European Commission approve the legislation in this form, it would sound the death knell for hundreds of thousands of seabirds, turtles, whales and dolphins. It would similarly engender reckless depletion of fish stocks. BirdLife Europe calls on Commissioner Vella to withdraw his proposal which has been twisted and turned beyond repair.

Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer:Though some MEPs tried to salvage this sinking ship, it is far better to maintain the status quo – short-sighted though it is – than to proceed with mostly empty legislation. The European Commission should now withdraw this irreparable legislation.”

More than 200,000 seabirds and 130,000 turtles are bycaught on fishing hooks and nets annually in European waters. By choosing not to properly address this (among many other negative fishing impacts) at European level, MEPs are in violation of the EU’s own Nature Directives which proscribes strict protection for birds, dolphins, whales and turtles. Catching of these species, accidental or otherwise, is illegal.

The legislation is also a disaster for managing fish stocks, allowing fishermen to catch baby fish as well as endangered sharks. It further undermines decisions adopted in December 2016 to regulate fishing impacts in the deep sea - which took more than four years to agree.

The watering down of this legislation has been driven by the rapporteur, EPP MEP Gabriel Mato, who has continuously undermined environmental legislation throughout his mandate in the European Parliament.

The file will now go for trilogue negotiations, where it is expected that Gabriel Mato and the European Council will further dilute any environmental standards that are currently in place.


For further information, please contact:
Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer
BirdLife Europe and Central Asia
+32 (0) 478 88 6420

[1] Joint letter from BirdLife and Low Impact Fishers of Europe: Support for technical rules to safeguard seabirds (November 2017)

BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.


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