Photo of seabird and boat to illustrate story about Boost for sustainable fishing as EU law set to apply on the high seas

Boost for sustainable fishing as new EU law set to apply on the high seas

EU fishing boats could soon need to prove they are environmentally sustainable if they want to fish outside the waters of the European Union, thanks to a vote by MEPs this week.

The Fisheries Committee called for boats to provide scientific evidence that their fishing is sustainable before getting permission to fish in the high seas, which cover 50% of the planet and are the least protected areas on earth. Some high seas fisheries are still completely unregulated and exploited on a “first come, first served” basis.

ClientEarth lawyer Elisabeth Druel said: “This is a major step forward for sustainable seas. The adoption of this report means the EU is positioning itself as a global leader in the conservation and sustainable management of the high seas.

“We congratulate MEPs for voting in favour of these amendments. We will continue to monitor the process, to ensure they are reflected in the final text agreed between the Council and Parliament.”

These amendments were tabled by the Greens’ rapporteure for the file, Linnéa Engström, and the Development Committee of the European Parliament. ClientEarth has long advocated for their inclusion in this new regulation.

The report agreed yesterday concerns a proposal from the Commission on the conditions under which EU fishing vessels are authorised to fish outside EU waters. It covers operations taking place in the waters of other countries, such as in Western Africa or on the high seas. It also applies to non-EU boats when they fish in EU waters.

The next step will be a vote in the wider EU Parliament, expected in February 2017. Then the Commission, the European Parliament and the Council will negotiate to agree on the final laws. We expect it to enter into force before the end of next year.

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Tyler Wanlass