Thursday, 4 February 2016

EU measures for protecting seabass- the response from NEF

EU measures for protecting seabass: our response

Photo credit: © Chris Williams

The fate of European seabass continues to be one of the most widely debated topics in EU fisheries management.
With seabass numbers now at dangerously low levels, the EU has put in place a series of extra measures to try and rebuild stocks, including a bold temporary ban on bass fishing by many commercial fishing gears (for example trawls or drift nets) for the first half of the year. 
EU emergency measures on seabass by gear type
These measures will have a major impact on bass fishing and conservationists, anglers and commercial fishers are all reacting from different perspectives.
So how do the measures fare against our proposals last year?
It’s clear that drastic action continues to be necessary to protect the bass stock. While this will mean reduced bass fishing opportunities in 2016, the alternative is even worse: a complete collapse in the stock – a major risk that the EU has been very clear about.
The measures are also welcome in the differential approach taken towards gear types – the wider impact on the environment or the dependence of particular parts of the fleet on specific species such as bass. Different fishing gear have different impacts: our research has shown that the social, economic and environmental performance of some fleets (hook and line) is significantly better than other fleets (demersal trawlers).
However, there is a significant problem with the new measures.
Article 10 of the regulation made catching and keeping bass illegal from January 1st 2016, but the regulation was not enforced by Member States until February 2016. The confusion has been exploited, adding even more pressure on the bass stocks.
Throughout January, bass have been targeted by fleets (from the UK and France) and large scale trawlers and seine netters. This has outraged many of the small scale fishers who depend on bass exclusively.
Unfortunately a lack of communication and clarity is nothing new in fisheries management, both in how decisions are made and how and when they will be enforced.
While we shouldn’t have to wait for a crisis to solve a problem – in this case the plummeting seabass stock biomass – it’s positive that the UK and EU are now using a best value approach.
Now they should apply this across other species before they too reach crisis point, not as a response. Using social, environmental and economic criteria is a key pillar of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy – and it’s time to put it into practice.

Who are NEF?

NEF is the UK's leading think tank promoting social, economic and environmental justice. Their aim is to transform the economy so that it works for people and the planet.
According to NEF, the UK and most of the world's economies are increasingly unsustainable, unfair and unstable. It is not even making us any happier as many of the richest countries in the world do not have the highest wellbeing.