Pesca illegale nel Mediterraneo: 15 anni di inadempienza nell'applicazione del divieto di strascico nelle aree marine Natura 2000

Lisbona, 30 giugno 2022 - Nel 2006 l’Unione Europea ha introdotto nel Mediterraneo il divieto di strascico nei siti marini Natura 2000, istituiti per tutelare alcuni tra gli habitat  più sensibili all’impatto della pesca di fondo, come le fanerogame marine (tra cui la Posidonia oceanica), gli habitat coralligeni e i letti di maërl, nell’ambito del Regolamento europeo sulla pesca mediterranea (Regolamento EC 1967/2006). Eppure a quindici anni di distanza questo divieto non viene pienamente applicato dagli stati membri dell’UE e la pesca a strascico continua ad operare indisturbata in aree che prevedono la massima tutela da questo tipo di pesca.

La denuncia arriva da MedReAct nel corso della presentazione dell’Atlante sulla pesca a strascico   nella aree protette del Mar Mediterraneo - prodotto da MedReAct e Global Fishing Watch per la Med Sea Alliance -  tenutasi  in occasione della Conferenza delle Nazioni Unite sugli Oceani a Lisbona.

MedReAct ha curato la mappatura di 726 aree marine del Mediterraneo dove la pesca a strascico è vietata in via permanente, attraverso un’approfondita ricerca delle normative nazionali e regionali che regolano le attività di pesca e di tutela di queste aree. Un lavoro che ha consentito di far emergere la sostanziale inapplicazione del regolamento europeo nella tutela degli habitats più sensibili della rete marina Natura 2000.

Secondo il già professore di diritto internazionale all’Università di Milano-Biccocca, Tullio Scovazzi, il divieto di strascico introdotto dal Regolamento EC 1967/2006, si estende infatti a tutta la superficie dei siti Natura 2000 istituiti per la protezione delle fanerogame marine, degli habitats coralligeni e dei letti di maërl. Tra i 184 siti Natura 2000 con queste caratteristiche mappati da MedReAct: 131 si trovano in Italia, 25 in Spagna, 20 in Francia, 3 in Grecia, 3 in Slovenia e 2 in Croazia.

I dati presentati a Lisbona sulle attività di strascico dei pescherecci superiori ai 15 metri equipaggiati con il sistema di rilevamento satellitare AIS ed elaborati da Global Fishing Watch, suggeriscono una diffusa attività di pesca nei siti Natura 2000 individuati nell’Atlante e segnalano come il divieto di pesca a strascico possa essere largamente inapplicato dalla maggior parte dei paesi dell’Unione Europea del Mediterraneo.

Ad esempio l’analisi dell’Atlante suggerisce che:

  • il 100% delle presunte infrazioni in aree protette spagnole riguarda siti Natura 2000 
  • l’88% delle presunte infrazioni in aree protette francesi riguarda siti Natura 2000
  • il 37% delle presunte infrazione in aree protette italiane riguarda siti Natura 2000.

“Mentre Francia, Italia e Spagna si dichiarano pronte a tutelare il 30% delle loro acque entro il 2030, continuano a tollerare attività di pesca distruttive e illegali proprio in quelle aree marine più vulnerabili ”, ha dichiarato Domitilla Senni. “Chiediamo l’intervento del Commissario europeo per l’Ambiente, gli Oceani e la Pesca, Virginious Sinkevicious, per esigere dagli stati membri la piena attuazione del divieto di strascico in tutte le aree Natura 2000 del Mediterraneo, istituite per la tutela degli habitats marini sensibili,” ha concluso Senni.


NOTE
Presunte infrazioni: I dati AIS di Global Fishing Watch sono stati utilizzati per identificare la presunta attività di pesca dei pescherecci a strascico  all'interno delle  aree protette dove questo tipo  di pesca  è permanentemente vietata. Quando un peschereccio è stato registrato come in apparentemente attività di pesca a strascico dall'algoritmo di rilevamento di Global Fishing Watch all'interno di queste aree, è stata registrata una presunta infrazione. Non è noto se le presunte infrazioni individuate nell'ATLAS siano state sanzionate o meno. I dati AIS trasmessi possono variare in termini di completezza, accuratezza e qualità. L'algoritmo di rilevamento della pesca di Global Fishing Watch è un ottimo strumento per identificare  "attività di pesca presunta". Tuttavia, è possibile che alcune attività di pesca non siano identificate come tali da Global Fishing Watch; al contrario, Global Fishing Watch può mostrare un'apparente attività di pesca in cui la pesca non è effettivamente in corso. Questi casi sono compilati analizzando i dati AIS di Global Fishing Watch e seguendo analisi ad hoc di diversi paesi.

Illegal fishing in the Mediterranean: 15 years of non-compliance in the implementation of of the trawling banin Natura 2000 sites

Lisbon, 30 June 2022 - In 2006, the European Union - in the context of the European regulation on Mediterranean fishing (EC Regulation 1967/2006), introduced a ban on trawling in those Natura 2000 sites designated for the conservation of habitats most vulnerable to bottom fishing: seagrass beds (such as Posidonia oceanica), coralligenus habitats and maërl beds. Yet fifteen years later the trawl ban is not fully enforced by EU Mediterranean countries and trawling continues to operate undisturbed in areas that should provide full protection from this destructive fishing practice.

The denounce comes from MedReAct during the presentation of the Atlas on  trawling in Mediterranean protected areas - produced by MedReAct and Global Fishing Watch for the Med Sea Alliance – during the United Nations Conference on Oceans in Lisbon.

MedReAct has mapped 726 marine areas of the Mediterranean where trawling is permanently prohibited, through an in-depth research of the existing national and regional fisheries and conservation measures in these areas. This research has disclosed the lack of enforcement of the European regulation on the protection of the most sensitive habitats of the Natura 2000 marine sites.

According to Tullio Scovazzi, former professor of international law at the University of Milan-Bicocca, the ban on trawling introduced by the EC Regulation 1967/2006 extends to the entire area of the Natura 2000 sites established for the protection of seagrass beds, coralligenous habitats and maërl beds. Among the 184 Natura 2000 sites with these characteristics mapped by MedReAct: 131 are located in Italy, 25 in Spain, 20 in France, 3 in Greece, 3 in Slovenia and 2 in Croatia.

The data presented in Lisbon on fishing activities by trawlers 15 meters in length or more, equipped with the AIS satellite tracking system and processed by Global Fishing Watch, suggest widespread fishing activity in the Natura 2000 sites identified by the Atlas and indicate that the trawling ban could be largely ignored by most of the Mediterranean EU countries. For example, the analysis of the Atlas indicates that:

• 100% of presumed infractions in Spanish protected areas concern Natura 2000 sites;

• 88% of presumed infractions in French protected areas concern Natura 2000 sites;

• 37% of presumed infractions* in Italian protected areas concern Natura 2000 sites.

“While France, Italy and Spain release grand statements about protecting 30% of their waters by 2030, they continue to tolerate destructive and illegal fishing in the most vulnerable marine areas,” said Domitilla Senni. "We call on the European Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginious Sinkevicious, to ensure the full implementation and enforcement of the trawling ban in all Natura 2000 sites of the Mediterranean, established for the protection of seagrass beds, coralligenus habitats and maërl beds”


NOTE
*Presumed infractions: Global Fishing Watch AIS data were used to identify apparent fishing activity of trawlers inside areas, mapped by MedReAct, where bottom trawling is permanently prohibited. When a fishing vessel was recorded as apparently fishing by the Global Fishing Watch detection algorithm inside areas closed to bottom trawling then a presumed infraction was recorded. It is unknown whether presumed infractions identified in the Atlas were sanctioned or not. AIS data as broadcast may vary in completeness, accuracy and quality. Global Fishing Watch's fishing detection algorithm is a best effort mathematically to identify "apparent fishing activity." However, it is possible that some fishing activity is not identified as such by Global Fishing Watch; conversely, Global Fishing Watch may show apparent fishing activity where fishing is not actually taking place. These cases are compiled by analyzing Global Fishing Watch AIS data and following ad hoc analyses of different countries.

A NEW STUDY exposes the true costs of trawling 

SUMMARY

Barcelona, 21st of June 2022 Bottom trawling has been going on for centuries in the Mediterranean, but in recent years concerns about its ecological impacts have been intensifying: not only do trawlers do more harm to marine ecosystems than any other segment of the fishing fleet, but they’re also responsible for most of its carbon emissions. Now a NEW STUDY by the ENT Foudation and MedReAct on the trawling sector in the Western Mediterranean has revealed that it is only prevented from making huge economic losses each year by generous government handouts.

If it wasn’t for fuel tax exemptions and other subsidies,” says Professor Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia, who co-reviewed the study with his colleague Professor Daniel Pauly, “the trawling sector as it is today would simply not be economically viable. For the year 2018, when these are taken into account, what looks like a net profit of €34 million is actually a negative return of about €77 million. There are enormous hidden costs to trawling.”

The study comes at a critical time as the European Union looks to embed a sustainable future for the ocean into its new Green Deal. With severe pressures affecting the ecological balance of the Mediterranean – overfishing, pollution and climate change are all having serious impacts – it has never been more important for leaders and decision-makers to recognise that healthy marine ecosystems are fundamental to its resilience, and to act accordingly.

And as the new study shows, despite the socioeconomic importance of fisheries for Mediterranean coastal communities, the bottom trawl sector – which makes uneconomical use of common resources as well as being the most fuel-intensive fishery – is accelerating the ecological crisis in the Mediterranean Sea.

Standard economic analysis gives only a partial picture of the true costs of trawling. 

After labour, fuel is the largest single cost the trawl sector faces – and it enjoys very substantial fuel tax exemptions. According to the report, in 2018 landings from trawlers in the Western Mediterranean brought in a net profit of €34 million – but as the study demonstrates, when government financial transfers are taken into account, the trawl sector in fact makes heavy losses.

Fuel tax exemptions in 2018 for the Spanish, French and Italian trawl fleets in the Western Mediterranean amounted to €93 million, or nearly three times the sector’s reported net profits. Today, with the current spike in fuel costs, this amount would be much higher.

And there’s more, as a result of the relatively high amounts of fuel that are needed to tow bottom trawl gear. From 2013-2018, the EU fleet in the Western Mediterranean consumed 1.2 billion litres of fuel, and was responsible for some 3.3 million tonnes of CO2 emissions – yet this contribution was not considered in binding national annual emissions allocations. “If the EU’s Emission Trading Scheme price levels of March 2021 were applied to direct emissions from trawl vessels' fuel consumption in the Western Mediterranean, the Italian, Spanish and French fleets would have a hidden carbon cost of about €13.2 million,” explains co-author Dr. Luís Campos Rodrigues from the ENT Foundation.

With the climate costs of the fleet’s direct emissions monetized and added on to the fuel tax exemptions and government subsidies, trawling’s annual losses would amount to €77 million according to the most recently available EU figures.

There are multiple fishing practices and gears in use today, and they have a wide range of different ecological and social effects. As the authors of the study argue, as well as being economically unviable, trawling is a disaster for marine ecosystems; while sustained fishing pressure from the fleet represents a particular threat to long-term fish stock sustainability at a time when scientists are calling for significant reductions in fishing mortality.

Following years of overfishing, the main commercial stocks of the Western Mediterranean – including European hake, red mullet, various shrimp species and Norway lobster – are overexploited and at low historical biomass levels; while fishing is the main driver of extinction risk for 77 species on the IUCN Red List.

In this context, the ecological impact of trawling is of particular concern. Of the 300 species caught in Mediterranean bottom trawl fisheries, up to 60% are always discarded; discards make up an average of nearly 35% of the total catch by weight. The sector also takes a high toll on vulnerable species, with trawlers responsible for more than 90% of incidental catches of sharks and rays in the Western Mediterranean.

Benthic communities are destroyed when heavy trawl gear is towed across them. Some vital habitats like coral and seagrass beds can take decades to recover from the impact of trawling, and sometimes the damage caused may be irreversible. Physical damage to seagrass beds has a climate impact too, as the Mediterranean’s endemic Posidonia oceanica acts as a crucial regional carbon sink, sequestering and storing greenhouse gases. When Posidonia meadows and their sediments are disturbed by trawling they can switch to become carbon sources, releasing carbon into the atmosphere and making the ocean more acidic.

In light of their findings, the ENT Foundation and MedReAct support the immediate application of extensive conservation measures, including a strong reduction in fishing pressure and the establishment of Fisheries Restricted Areas closed to bottom fishing. The latter would allow sensitive habitats and populations of vulnerable and commercially important species alike to recover.

With the release of this report we’re calling for an urgent and radical shift to low-impact fisheries,” say Domitilla Senni from MedReAct  “Whether you look at it from an economic or an environmental point of view, the true costs of trawling are too high to bear. We must act now: we cannot afford to delay any further the recovery of the Mediterranean Sea.

Press release in Italian

Press release in French

Appello di MedReAct per il 22 maggio, Giornata Mondiale della Biodiversità

“Tuteliamo il Mediterraneo: scrigno di biodiversità aggredito dalla pesca indiscriminata e dai cambiamenti climatici”

Roma, 20 maggio 2022 - Il Mar Mediterraneo è un piccolo bacino (0,82% della superficie oceanica mondiale e 0,3% del volume oceanico mondiale) che ospita circa il 7,5% di tutte le specie marine esistenti, con un'alta percentuale di specie endemiche. Un vero e proprio scrigno di biodiversità, che però è sempre più in sofferenza.

I suoi ecosistemi profondi, quelli che si trovano al di sotto dei 200 metri, sono caratterizzati da complesse strutture topografiche, come canyons e montagne sottomarine, e rappresentano habitat vitali per organismi bentonici e per specie demersali. 

Offrono substrati a cui le diverse specie possono ancorarsi e forniscono cibo per diversi tipi di organismi (ad esempio sui ripidi pendi dei canyons sottomarini il plankton resta intrappolato dalle correnti).  Inoltre, la presenza di specie che creano tridimensionalità (come barriere di coralli profondi, campi di pennatule, giardini di spugne ecc) fornisce rifugio e risorse per molte specie, anche pesci demersali, e influenza il funzionamento oceanico attraverso il sequestro di CO2.

Questi ambienti possono costituire dei rifugi climatici perché la temperatura delle loro acque è più fredda rispetto alla temperatura media che invece si sta sempre più surriscaldando. Sono zone che ospitano habitat vulnerabili che a causa dei cambiamenti climatici rischiano una drastica riduzione.

Secondo uno studio* recentemente pubblicato da Frontiers in Marine Science la sopravvivenza di questi “rifugi climatici” a livello globale è sempre più a rischio perché gli impatti sugli ambienti profondi sono in continuo aumento; tra i principali c’è senz’altro la pesca indiscriminata, come lo strascico. A questa si aggiungono le attività estrattive di gas e petrolio e, naturalmente, i cambiamenti climatici.

Lo studio individua una serie di caratteristiche per i rifugi climatici riscontrabili nel Golfo del Leone e nel Delta dell’Ebro. Queste comprendono strutture geomorfologiche complesse e condizioni oceanografiche particolari (come la risalita di acque profonde note come fenomeni di upwelling) che consentirebbero la sopravvivenza di specie fragili e vulnerabili sia bentoniche che demersali .

Condizioni simili secondo MedReAct potrebbero trovarsi anche nel Canale di Otranto. Qui infatti si scambiano le acque che si originano nel sud Adriatico con quelle del mare Ionio, creando condizioni particolari che supportano la vita di specie di acque profonde e creano inoltre ambienti adatti a specie particolarmente fragili e vulnerabili come i coralli di profondità. 

In queste aree MedReact ha proposto alla Commissione Generale per la Pesca nel Mediterraneo la creazione di zone di restrizione alla pesca (Fisheries Recovery Areas, FRA) chiuse alla pesca di fondo.

“In occasione della Giornata Mondiale della Biodiversità che si celebra il 22 maggio  - ha dichiarato dice Domitilla Senni, responsabile di MedReact, - è importante ricordare che il nostro mare  non solo è il più sovrasfruttato al mondo ma è anche considerato una delle regioni dove gli effetti dei cambiamenti climatici sono più intensi. Bisogna intervenire subito, superando le resistenze che la tutela di queste aree incontrano a livello delle amministrazioni nazionali.  La loro protezione sarebbe un passo importante per la salvaguardia degli ecosistemi profondi del Mediterraneo e per la funzione che potrebbero svolgere come rifugi climatici ”.

A questo link la Mappa con indicate le Fisheries Recovery Areas, FRA proposte da MedReAct in Mediterraneo.

*Combes et al (2021) Systematic Conservation Planning at an Ocean Basin Scale: Identifying a Viable Network of Deep-Sea Protected Areas in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Front. Mar. Sci. 8:611358. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2021.611358 

European Parliament vote will serve as crash test of its ambition for ocean biodiversity and the climate

Tomorrow, 3 May 2022, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will be watched by citizens and NGOs as they vote in a plenary session in Strasbourg on a crucial text for the climate and the protection of marine biodiversity and habitats.

As part of the Own Initiative Report of Portuguese socialist MEP Mrs. Isabel Carvalhais “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU” [1], Green MEP Caroline Roose tabled an amendment that was already adopted in the Fisheries and Development Committees of the European Parliament, and that is therefore going to be voted in Plenary. Mrs. Roose’s amendment sets out the very fundamentals of what a true “Marine Protected Area” should be by proposing to prohibit one of the most destructive forms of fishing, bottom trawling, in all marine protected areas.

Bottom trawling is a fishing method that consists in towing huge weighted nets and metal chains along the seafloor. It consumes large quantities of fuel, destroys marine ecosystems, levels habitats and catches all marine life indiscriminately. To make matters worse, the heavy towed nets stir up the carbon that is naturally stored in marine sediments, thereby worsening the climate crisis. Such destructive ways of catching fish have no place in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), and are recognised internationally as incompatible with the concept of “protected” areas. Mrs. Roose’s amendment aims at raising the EU’s ambition on marine protection, to be on par with international standards on MPAs in a context of accelerating environmental crises.

If the conservative EPP political group, led by Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato, hadn’t called for a separate vote, the prohibition of bottom trawling inside Marine Protected Areas would have been adopted as part of the report. But this separate vote request was made with the purpose of singling out the prohibition of bottom trawling inside protected areas in order to “kill” it. Another Plenary amendment has been proposed by a group of MEPs, led by French Renew MEP Pierre Karleskind, which would eviscerate the text of any meaning. At a time of an unprecedented climatic crisis and biodiversity  collapse, voting to defend a ban on the most destructive fishing in our most sensitive ocean areas should be a “no brainer” for MEPs, but this does not take into account the bonds between MEPs and industrial fishing lobbies.

This vote will be a crash test of the European Parliament’s capacity to free itself from the influence of corporate lobbies with short-sighted interests. Although an own initiative report does not result in legally-binding legislation, the vote will send an important political signal that can reinforce the European Commission’s will to tackle the issue of poorly – if at all – “protected” areas of European waters and of the dreadful impacts of destructive fisheries on marine biodiversity and the seabed.

NGOs and citizens have asked MEPs to support the text as voted in the Development and Fisheries committees, and to thus follow Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) expert recommendations in order to act with determination for our common future. Last year, more than 150,000 EU citizens called on the EU to ban bottom-trawling, starting immediately in all marine protected areas. Expectations are high and the vote will be closely followed. 

Références

[1] Own-initiative report 2021/2188(INI) by the Portuguese Socialist MEP Isabel Carvalhais: “Toward a sustainable blue economy in the EU: the role of the fisheries and aquaculture sectors ».

El Conocimiento Ecológico Local de los Pescadores permite detectar la presencia de Ecosistemas Marinos Vulnerables en la zona marítima frente al Delta del Ebro

Una investigación publicada recientemente muestra como la experiencia de los pescadores locales puede contribuir a un mejor conocimiento de los recursos marinos, y así contribuir a establecer mejores medidas de gestión y de protección.

Barcelona, 24 de marzo de 2022

Una investigación científica publicada recientemente en la revista Fisheries Research ha llevado a cabo entrevistas a numerosos pescadores que faenan en la zona marítima frente al Delta del Ebro, con el fin de evaluar la percepción de los pescadores con respecto al estado de los recursos marinos demersales, es decir, sobre el estado de las especies que viven en el fondo marino.

El estudio ha analizado la percepción de los pescadores de arrastre de fondo desde los años 80 hasta la actualidad en la zona marítima frente al Delta del Ebro. Ha identificado áreas de pesca históricas donde especies y Ecosistemas Marinos Vulnerables -como el coral bambú y plumas marinas-, todavía están presentes. Se trata de una información determinante para poder establecer medidas de gestión tales como Zonas de Recuperación Pesquera.

Concretamente, el estudio abarca la zona comprendida entre Cap de Salou (Tarragona) y Castellón de la Plana (Castellón), en un área marina que cubre una extensión de unos 7.000 km2 y presenta un rango de profundidad de 40 a 900 metros.

Cambios importantes en la abundancia de especies

Esta metodología, también conocida como Conocimiento Ecológico Local, ha demostrado que puede contribuir sustancialmente a mejorar la información histórica disponible y conocer la tendencia de especies de gran interés comercial para la flota, en este caso para la flota de arrastre de fondo cercana al Delta del Ebro, cuyas especies objetivo son la merluza, los salmonetes, los langostinos, o las galeras, y sobre las cuales no siempre existen evaluaciones científicas cuantitativas sobre el estado de los recursos explotados.

La investigación, en la que han colaborado investigadores de la Fundación ENT y de MedReAct, y que ha contado con la participación de investigadores del Instituto de Ciencias del Mar (ICM-CSIC), ha documentado cambios importantes en la abundancia de especies. Por ejemplo, desde la década de los 80 hasta la actualidad la galera y el salmonete de fango han sido las dos especies que más han aumentado, mientras que la merluza y la caballa han sido las que más han disminuido. Un dato que concuerda con las evaluaciones científicas disponibles.

Presencia significativa de especies vulnerables

En este trabajo, y mediante el uso de la percepción de los pescadores, el estudio ha podido determinar que una zona marítima frente al Delta del Ebro destaca sobre el resto (denominada Área 4 en el estudio) por mostrar una aparente relevancia en cuanto a la presencia de Ecosistemas Marinos Vulnerables, tanto en el pasado como en la actualidad. Concretamente, los pescadores entrevistados han destacado que aunque se ha reducido notablemente la captura incidental de especies de corales, en esta área todavía se detecta una presencia significativa de varias de estas especies vulnerables, en especial de plumas de mar y en menor medida de otros corales como el coral bambú.

Una herramienta nueva para poder establecer medidas de gestión y protección

Además de documentar cambios de las especies comerciales más comunes, el estudio también ha analizado información sobre especies generadoras de hábitat -tales como corales, esponjas y plumas marinas- consideradas especies clave e indicadoras de Ecosistemas Marinos Vulnerables. Al ser vulnerables a la acción humana, particularmente a las pesquerías de fondo, conocer su presencia y distribución (presente y pasada) permite poder proponer medidas de gestión y de protección de estas especies.

Marta Coll, investigadora del ICM-CSIC y una de las autoras del estudio, considera que “la falta de información biológica y ecológica perjudica la gestión de las pesquerías y la implementación de la gestión basada en el ecosistema”. “Explorar el uso del Conocimiento Ecológico Local de los pescadores como fuente adicional de datos, con el fin de reducir la brecha de conocimiento científico existente, nos ha permitido aumentar el conocimiento sobre el estado y la distribución espacial de especies y ecosistemas vulnerables que se deberían proteger”.  

Debido a estos hallazgos, Lydia Chaparro, Ecóloga marina de la Fundación ENT considera que “la zona marítima en el exterior del Delta del Ebro podría ser una de las mejores candidatas para convertirse en una nueva Zona de Restricción Pesquera en el Mediterráneo debido a la gran riqueza ecológica que presenta”“Por ello, si se han documentado la presencia de una zona con especies vulnerables que necesitan protección, el Gobierno debería establecer sin demora medidas urgentes de gestión pesquera en la zona más allá de las medidas ya existentes”.

En esta misma línea la investigación menciona un caso de éxito en el Mar Adriático, donde el establecimiento de una Zona de Restricción Pesquera conocida como Jabuka/Pomo Pit ha demostrado que proteger zonas vulnerables de la actividad pesquera ha permitido en pocos años recuperar la biomasa de especies comerciales agotadas. Lo que ha conllevado beneficios ambientales, pero también beneficios para los propios pescadores que operan en las proximidades del área protegida.

La consecución del Objetivo “30x30” de la UE, que tiene como meta proteger de forma eficaz el 30% de las zonas marinas para el año 2030, y de cómo el establecimiento de Zonas de Restricción Pesquera pueden contribuir efectivamente a cumplir con dicho objetivo, será muy probablemente uno de los temas tratados durante la “Monaco Ocean Week” que tiene lugar esta semana en el Principado de Mónaco. En esta ocasión, la comunidad científica, ONG, gestores y demás participantes debatirán los últimos hallazgos y medidas entorno la conservación del océano.

NO MORE PUBLIC SUBSIDIES TO FUND OVERFISHING AND BIODIVERSITY DESTRUCTION

Joint statement of WWF, Oceana, MedReAct, and Environmental Justice Foundation

Over the past week, fuel has doubled in price. Transportation, agriculture, and fisheries appear to be among the most impacted sectors from this cost increase. In several EU countries, including Italy, Spain, France and Greece, fishers across the whole fishing sector are calling for the government to mitigate the fuel price increase so that their business can remain viable. To date, European fishing fleets have benefited from public sector’ subsidies (tax reduction) that cut fuel prices by 20-50%. The current situation raises the question of the business viability and profitability of some European fleets (e.g., trawlers). If their profitability is voided by a doubling in gas prices1, which are already heavily subsidized, it raises fundamental questions about their economic and ecological sustainability and whether they should be in business at all.

A recent analysis (in publication)- coordinated by WWF - demonstrates that the trawl sector is heavily dependent on “capacity enhancing” subsidies, (sensu Sumaila et al. (2019a), and not just for fuel. In the previous European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF), the category of trawl vessels larger than 12 metres in length, received more than 70% of the total European Maritime Fisheries Fund (EMFF) budget provided to fishing vessels in the EU Mediterranean.

This week, a large portion of the fleet remained in port as they raised concerns for the future of their business. Governments and the European Commission are at work to develop aid packages. However, before considering additional aid we advocate that the state of the resources they exploit is carefully considered. The Mediterranean is one of the most overfished seas in the world, with 87%2 of the stocks being overfished in European Mediterranean waters. When taking a closer look at the target resources of the heavily subsidised trawl fleet, it is apparent that their efforts are concentrated on several overfished stocks. For example3: in the French and Spanish Western Mediterranean hake is currently fished at a rate which is nearly 6 times the sustainable level (F/Fmsy=5,58); blue and red shrimps in the Southern Tyrrhenian Sea are currently fished at a rate that is nearly 4 times the sustainable level (F/Fmsy=3,72); in the Adriatic, sardines are currently fished at a rate that is more than 3 times the sustainable level (F/Fmsy=3,23) while anchovies exploitation rate is nearly twice the sustainable level (F/Fmsy=1,69).

Stepping back from the current outcry, it is important to remember how countries have committed to build back better after the COVID-19 pandemic (during which aid packages were approved for the fishing industry), reduce carbon emissions, and advance on the UN Sustainable Development Goal 14, including the removal of harmful subsidies (SDG 14.6).

WTO negotiations on harmful subsidies, originally planned in January 2022 have now been postponed until June. In the EU, after months of negotiations, institutions agreed to strengthen the EU’s next Environment Action Programme yet they missed a critical opportunity to set an end date for public finance for fossil fuels and environmentally harmful activities, despite EU leaders having repeatedly stated their intention to phase such finance out. In the EU, over €52 billion of taxpayers’ money goes annually to fossil fuels alone.

When considering additional aid packages for the fishing industry, which may be certainly beneficial for certain fleets, we recommend that European Institutions and national governments refrain from the use of public funding for harmful subsidies. This includes those that lower the cost of fuel, support destructive fishing and overcapacity with vessel construction in addition to those that provide price support to keep market prices artificially high. These subsidies contribute to the exploitation of overfished stocks, and support harmful fishing practices causing the loss of marine habitats and species. We urge the European Union to champion the discussion at the WTO on harmful subsidies, with the intent to curb overfishing, biodiversity degradation, CO2 emissions, and to safeguard the livelihood of small fisheries.

We renew our concerns on the state of Mediterranean overfished stocks. The target set by the Common Fishery Policy to achieve MSY by 2020 has been largely missed and the European Commission should be applying the precautionary approach as stated by Article 2 of the CFP4. Fuel subsidies are adding pressure on fish stocks and marine ecosystems by funding vessels which would not be sustained otherwise. Instead the precautionary approach would require a substantial decrease of the fishing effort and fleet capacity5 through measures aimed at the recovery of the once rich marine biodiversity of the Mediterranean region.

1 For example: in Italy subsidized fuel went from € 0,4 to 0.96 in the last year

2 The State of Mediterranean and Black Sea Fisheries, GFCM 2020

3 Data from the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF) stock assessment database and FAO-GFCM SOMFI 2020.

4 Article 2(2) of Regulation (EU) No 1380/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2013 on the Common Fisheries Policy.

5    https://www.wwfmmi.org/newsroom/latest_news/?uNewsID=5434466

Spain falls short in protecting Mediterranean marine ecosystems

15th December  - Yesterday, Spain introduced new temporary and permanent fishing closures within the framework of the Multiannual Management Plan for Demersal Fisheries in the Mediterranean, to contribute to the recovery of the main demersal fish stocks.

However, according to Fundación ENT and MedReAct, the new closures are insufficient and must be urgently strengthened. Spain must instead promote the establishment of larger areas permanently closed to fishing and located in sites with greater ecological value.

Most of the newly introduced closures are too small, badly placed and do not provide permanent protection, which is the only measure that allows a real recovery of the marine ecosystem. Consequently, they will not contribute significantly to improving the state of fish stocks. Therefore, Fundación ENT and MedReAct urge Spain to take urgent measures to reinforce the current measure, without wasting the potential that fishing closures can have for marine recovery.

According to FAO, the Mediterranean Sea is the region of the world with the highest rate of overfishing. While this overexploitation continues, the destructive impact of fishing gears  has seriously damaged the marine ecosystems and the fish populations that depend on it.

Yet, the situation can be reversed if appropriate measures are taken.One with the greatest potential is the establishment of  marine recovery areas, where fishing activities are not allowed and where the ecosystem can flourish while fish populations and habitats recover.

Hundreds of permanent closed areas have been created worldwide. The Mediterranean is no exception and has some successful examples, such as the Jabuka / Pomo Pit Fisheries Restricted Area  (FRA) in the central Adriatic Sea.

"Permanent closures are an essential tool for marine recovery" says Miquel Ortega, marine coordinator of ​​Fundación ENT. "They contribute to objectives of the EU biodiversity strategy 2030, which stipulates that 30% of the EU marine waters must be protected, 10% of which with strict protection. What Spain has just introduced falls short of these objectives. Spain must prioritize the long-term protection of marine areas with the highest ecological value, such as those found in the  Ebro Delta."

For more information see here.

France, Spain and Italy must stop playing Russian roulette with their Mediterranean fisheries, and instead abide by EU law they committed to

Brussels - Ahead of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council (AgriFish) on 12 and 13 December 2021, MedReAct, Ecologistas en Acción, Legambiente, Fundació ENT, Oceana, Seas At Risk, SNPN, and WWF are extremely concerned that France, Spain and Italy are playing political games that risk burying all hopes to save Western Mediterranean fisheries. 

The Western Mediterranean is plagued by unacceptable overfishing - 2.71 times higher than sustainable levels, and well-above the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) limit. The crisis can only be solved by following science and adopting drastic measures to tackle overfishing and protect key habitats that support fish stock recovery. This requires several combined actions:  fishing effort reduction paired with properly allocated catch limits; improved selectivity measures to stop catching juvenile fish (such as grids, T90 and bigger mesh size of the cod end); and spatial measures, namely the creation of permanent fisheries closures to protect sensitive habitats like nurseries and spawning grounds of fish stocks. Overall, a clear plan for a transition of the trawling sector is needed.

The NGOs provided the following statement: “In 2019, Spain, France and Italy committed to deliver sustainable fisheries in the Western Mediterranean by 2025, delaying by five years the sustainability obligation set by the CFP for 2020. Today, scientists are raising the alarm: none of the 2022 management scenarios evaluated will end overfishing by 2025 unless those same countries adopt drastic reductions in fishing effort. To prevent France, Italy and Spain from continuing to jeopardize the future of Mediterranean fisheries and the thousands of EU citizens that rely on it for their livelihoods, we call on the European Commission to act with emergency measures, before it’s too late”. 

NGOs are sensitive to the potential socio-economic impact of these measures. Implementation at national level should include transition support plans, with clear incentives for best environmental and social practices (as requested by Article 17 of the CFP). These plans should be attached to the implementation of the Western Mediterranean Multiannual plan (MAP), contributing to a modern management plan that adopts bio-economic tools in the decision-making processes to minimize the socio-economic impact while meeting the MAP’s objectives.

The "Landing obligation" introduced by the CFP has not been enforced, selectivity measures have not been adopted, too few and too small nursery areas have been closed to fishing, and fishing effort is still too high. This is stated not only by environmental groups, but by scientists too, including the Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), the fisheries scientific body of the European Commission. 

Time is ticking and fish stock collapse may soon become a stark reality in the Mediterranean. In certain areas, European hake is fished at more than 8 times the sustainable levels, red mullet and blue and red shrimp over 6 times, resulting in catches shrinking and fishers being pushed into economic turmoil. 

The 2021 December AgriFish EU Council is the last opportunity to show political leadership by adhering to the Western Mediterranean Multiannual Plan adopted in 2019. 

It would have been a difficult moment if we did not know what to do. But proven solutions exist: drastic fishing effort reduction combined with enforcement, wide-scale adoption of selectivity, and the introduction of a larger network of fisheries closures, coupled with transitional support to coastal communities. 

France, Spain and Italy cannot ignore science any longer, undermine the credibility of the CFP and of the EU, and drive Western Mediterranean fish stocks, and the future of the fishing communities that rely on them, to a disastrous collapse. 

Italian version: Francia, Spagna e Italia smettano di giocare alla roulette russa con le attività di pesca nel Mediterraneo e rispettino i loro impegni

French version: Plutôt que de jouer à la roulette russe avec leurs pêcheries méditerranéennes, l’Espagne la France et l’Italie feraient bien mieux de respecter la réglementation européenne à l’adoption de laquelle elles ont contribué

Spanish version: Francia, España e Italia deben dejar de jugar a la ruleta rusa con las pesquerías mediterráneas y cumplir con la legislación de la UE con la que se comprometieron

The EU undermines scientific advice at the GFCM annual session.

November 6th, 2021. MedReact  express its deepest concerns with the European Union position at the GFCM 44th session which has undermined the GFCM Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) advice on the Fisheries Restricted Area proposals for the Ebro Delta Margin (EDM FRA) and Palmahim disturbance off the coast of Israel. 

The EU representative repeatedly challenged the SAC advice, claiming first that more technical information on the EDM FRA proposal was needed, and secondly explicitly requesting the deletion of any reference to SAC endorsement of both FRA proposals, from the final report of the meeting .

The position of the EU  is extremely disappointing considering in particular that SAC advice issued last July “welcomed the work done on the Ebro delta margin FRA proposal (Appendix 17) and considered that it was comprehensive, technically sound, and provided useful information to improve the spatial management of fisheries in the area.”

MedReact consider that the position of the EU sets a dangerous precedent  and that -  by delegitimising SAC advice - jeopardises the adoption of sound fisheries and conservation measures based on scientific advice.

Mediterranean Recovery Action

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