Today, I was in Ponta Delgada, in the Azores, where I met representatives of the local government, as well as fishermen organisations.
Fishermen told me about the importance of deep sea fisheries for the economy of the region and for their communities. They have been fishing sustainably for 300 years, with longlines and handlines. However, in the last two decades big trawlers have overfished deep sea stocks and damaged the sea bed and the ecosystems. They say that one year of deep sea trawling does as much harm to deep sea habitats as 800 years of longline fishing.
Our outermost regions Azores and Madeira depend on these fish for their livelihood and we have to make sure that they can again rely on them in the future. We need to create a level playing field that allows fishermen like those I met today to keep on fishing and maintain their source of income.
The deep sea access proposal, which I tabled in July 2012, aims at doing so, phasing out the harmful bottom trawls and gill nets over two years, to be replaced by longlines and establishing licenses for fishermen that target specifically deep sea species, as a basis for managing that fishery. This would also allow for improving collection of data for those fisheries.