Following complaints that the practice, also known as demersal seining, was having a “devastating” impact on local fishers, the European Parliament voted to outlaw “fly shooting” fishing in French territorial waters in the Channel.
Small-scale fishermen were said to have won as a result, according to campaigners. Organizations that represent coastal fishing communities on both sides of the English Channel have issued warnings that fly-shooting and other industrial trawling techniques are destroying both the marine ecosystem and their livelihoods.
MEPs said the vote on Tuesday delivered a crucial message to decision-makers about the impact of fly-shooting on coastal fishing communities, even though the European Parliament does not have the authority to outright outlaw the form of fishing. The European Commission, the European Parliament, and the EU member states will now deliberate the vote on a change to the common fisheries policy including access to territorial seas.
The UK was charged with allowing fishing vessels “unfettered access” to the English Channel last year without properly evaluating the impact on fish, the seabed, or the livelihoods of coastal residents.
Laetitia Bisiaux, a project manager for the French environmental organization Bloom, declared that “this is a really crucial day for the ocean and coastal fishing communities.” “Fishers who use demersal seining themselves have informed MEPs about its damaging effects. The long-ignored warnings were finally heard by the MEPs.
The vote sends a clear political message to member states and fishers that this harmful method should be prohibited, she added.
Danish, Scottish, or demersal seiners are other names for fly-shooter fishing boats, which tow lead-weighted ropes down the seabed at either end of a net that encircles and catches large shoals of fish.
According to one expert who spoke with the Guardian, the technique had four to eleven times the “killing power” of inshore fishing boats.
The French Green MEP Caroline Roose proposed the change to the fisheries policy, calling it an “essential first step” toward a ban.
The vote from yesterday clearly supports the fishermen’s and NGOs’ proposal for a ban on demersal seines in the English Channel, according to Roose. The amendment itself gives the French government the authority to prohibit its usage along French shorelines.
The EU Commission and the member states would need to be involved in any negotiations over a decision to restrict or outlaw demersal seines in the English Channel, thus this is simply the first step. To ensure that yesterday’s judgment is truly carried out, public pressure will be essential.
Small-scale fishers are represented by organizations and campaigns in the UK, that welcomed the news and said it was time for the British government to take action.
The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs announced in June 2021 that it was thinking about how fly-fishing would affect the UK fishing industry. Between 2011 and 2021, the UK issued 15 fly-shooting boat licenses.
It’s a long path to action, but at least Europe appears to be addressing the issue, said Jeremy Percy, founding director and senior consultant of Low Impact Fishers of Europe. Although we have improved our efficiency in catching fish, management and rules have not.
“We are all fishermen, and while we all need and deserve to earn a living, it should never come at the price of another fishing industry, particularly one as fragile as the UK’s smaller-scale fleet.
The fact that we quit the EU but continue to permit large-scale destruction by EU vessels to go on uninterrupted makes it all the more infuriating.
Oceans campaigner Fiona Nicholls from Greenpeace UK stated: “Encouraging news from France – French fisherman are being heard. It’s time for UK lawmakers to pay attention to what domestic fishers need.
“Banning damaging industrial fishing, such as fly-shooting, must be a top priority for the government in 2022 if the UK is to effectively protect its marine protected areas. They could easily move quickly to save our oceans and fishing communities using the post-Brexit licensing powers outlined in the Fisheries Act.
Defra acknowledged the concerns expressed regarding fishing pressures in the English Channel, particularly techniques like fly-seining, and said it was working with the industry to address these concerns.
We have already banned pulse trawling by EU and English-registered vessels in UK seas, and any future decisions about the management of fisheries will be based on the best available data.
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