Brussels 28.04.2021: Ocean conservation NGO MedReAct applauds the initiative of Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Caroline Roose to raise awareness on the need to permanently close the Gulf of Lion Fisheries Restricted Area to destructive fishing practises.
MEP Roose, member of the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, sent a letter co-signed by parliamentarians to European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevičius, urging the latter to support the permanent closure of the Fisheries Restricted Area in the Gulf of Lion to bottom fishing.
MEP Roose engaged 35 parliamentarians from a wide range of political parties to co-sign the letter, in which its permanent closure to all types of bottom gears would constitute “an investment that would offer short, medium and long-term benefits” for the region. In addition, the letter also references recent scientific findings on “the immense carbon cost of bottom trawling,” as another reason to call for the permanent closure of the FRA.
“We urge Commissioner Sinkevičius to work ahead of the annual meeting of the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean in November to ensure that this area is finally and permanently closed to bottom fishing.Similar measures have been adopted in the Jabuka Pomo pit FRA in the Adriatic Sea, where in less than two years we have observed an extraordinary doubling of the biomass of commercial species important to fishermen in the area”said MEP Roose.
The Gulf of Lion is an important area for fish populations and marine biodiversity in the Mediterranean, which hosts a variety of sensitive habitats (Posidoniameadows, coralligenous habitats and submarine canyons). For decades, it has been a strategic fishing ground for French and Spanish fleets, however poor fisheries management over the years has contributed to considerable biodiversity loss and depletion of fish stocks.
Since its designation in 2009 as a Fisheries Restricted Area – the only one in the Western Mediterranean set up by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) – the Gulf of Lion FRA has not delivered on any of its promises to protect the spawning stock of hake and other commercial species. Indeed, unlike all the other FRAs created in the Mediterranean, bottom fishing is not fully banned, which is an insufficient conservation measure for the recovery of fish stocks.
The Gulf of Lions FRA is an area of 2,000 km2located in French waters, about 70 Km offshore between Marseille and Sète. It does not represent a strategic interest for the Gulf fisheries as, in 2019, only about ten French fishing trawlers were still operating in the FRA, for just a total of 170 days in the year.
“The permanent closure of the FRA to bottom fishing can contribute to the recovery of the Gulf of Lion so that it can become once again what it has not been for decades: an area teeming with biodiversity in which sustainable fisheries can play a full role for coastal communities. What is urgently needed is the political will to make that happen”said Stéphan Beaucher, MedReAct’s spokesperson for France.
“We welcome the support of the European Commission, and especially Commissioner Sinkevičius’ engagement to ensure that 10% of EU waters are strictly protected by 2030. In line with this key objective, MedReAct calls on Commissioner Sinkevičius to step in to support the closure of the Gulf of Lion FRA without further delay in order to protect spawning areas for European hake and sensitive habitats"concluded Beaucher.