Last week, the Commission adopted my proposal to regulate fishing for deep-sea species in the North-East Atlantic and phase out those fishing gears that specifically target deep sea species in a less sustainable manner.
To set this proposal right, we needed to strike the right balance: deep-sea fisheries target species and impact ecosystems that are particularly vulnerable. Bottom trawls and bottom-set gillnets in particular, involve high levels of unwanted by-catches (20 to 40 per cent in weight, or more).
On the other hand, wee have to find out the exact social impact of such a proposal. Deep-sea fisheries are limited: they account for about 1% of fish landed from the North-East Atlantic (34.334 out of the total 3.563.711 tonnes, in 2008). But, if the impact of the Commission proposal would be very limited nationally, at the regional level some sensitivity remains: in Brittany, for instance, the French government and the industry reviewed the state of the activity two years ago and estimated that about 180 jobs are linked to the deep sea fishing vessels, mostly trawlers, although those trawlers also operate in other fisheries. Also, 200 fish mongers are specialised in deep-sea fish.
It is obvious that for all these people we need to offer alternatives and provide solutions, supporting financially the necessary adjustments. What can be the answer? The answer is to change fishing techniques and we have all the provisions for a generous co-financing of these projects with European money.
Fishing vessels that specifically target deep-sea species are most dependent on these resources. They will have a future only if their activity is managed to be sustainable: it is in their interest to gradually switch to fishing techniques that are more selective, with less impact on the deep-sea habitats. Otherwise, catches – and related jobs – would continue declining, due to depleted stocks.