Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia - Press release 21 November 2017

Fisheries committee fails to protect seabirds and the sea

Today the Fisheries committee of the European Parliament voted on the Technical Measures Regulation - and unfortunately failed to take the necessary steps to tackle seabird bycatch and end overfishing. The committee didn’t set up EU wide rules to prevent seabirds from drowning in fishing gear. Seabirds are caught in many different kinds of fisheries and fishing gear, including in longlines and gillnets. These unintentional deaths, known as ‘bycatch’, are a major threat to seabirds with an estimated 200,000 dying every year in European waters. The Fisheries committee also failed to establish a binding target for reduction of catching juvenile fish. Catching fish before they are able to reproduce leads to decline of stocks and harms both the environment and the long-term viability of the fishing sector.

In 2016, the European Commission proposed a new regulation [1] that would establish rules on fishing in an effort to minimize bycatch of seabirds and other species and to reduce the damage done to fishing stocks by the fishing fleet.

Technical solutions already exist for some fishing gear and have been found to prevent or dramatically reduce the incidental catch of seabirds, for example setting longlines at night when birds are not fishing, or using scaring devices to prevent them from accessing them baited hooks. However, implementing these solutions and monitoring their effectiveness has been very slow in the EU. BirdLife and partners have been advocating and working alongside fishermen to save seabirds from bycatch for years, the latest example being the Seabird Task Force [2].

Furthermore, BirdLife is also very disappointed that the MEPs failed to set a target to reduce the capture of bycatch of juvenile fish. Catching fish before they are able to reproduce is extremely harmful for the environment and for the viability of the sector itself.

Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia said: “MEPs in the Fisheries committee have failed the marine environment today. Not only did they vote against any fishing measures to tackle seabird bycatch, they have also gone backwards on their commitments, allowing for even more overfishing. This is the worst vote I have ever seen in this committee and I do think the European Commission should withdraw this legislation at this point.”   

In a narrow vote, the rapporteur needed one more vote to get the mandate to enter negotiations with the Council. Therefore, the legislation will still need to be adopted in plenary and further changes are expected from different political groups. ENDS

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

[1] Proposal from the European Commission on a Regulation on the Conservation of Fisheries Resources and Marine Ecosystem through Technical Measures (2016/0074 (COD))

[2] The Seabird task force report is available on the Seabird Task Force website


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.