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Press release


184 Natura 2000 sites designated to protected coralligenous habitats, sea grass and maerl beds are still not fully protected from trawling

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Lisbon, 30st of 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”.

*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.

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