seabird in midflight with sea in background

EU rules need to protect sensitive marine species and habitats

New rules governing fishing must be in line with EU environment laws to protect sensitive marine species and habitats.

This is the finding of a ClientEarth briefing on the Commission’s Technical Conservation Measures Framework Proposal, which aims to simplify the regulations that govern how, where and when fishers may fish. Technical measures make up an important part of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).

ClientEarth fisheries lawyer Heather Hamilton said: “The Commission’s proposal threatens to weaken protection for sensitive marine species and habitats if it conflicts with EU environment laws. This may also risk the success of the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.”

The Commission’s proposal aims to simplify a highly complex and ineffective system of regulations. In the past, technical measures under the CFP have been made up of lots of regulations, amendments and temporary measures used to stop-gap urgent problems.

To ensure the new technical measures protect sensitive species, they must be in line with existing EU environment laws and provide, at the very least, the same levels of protection.

The technical measures framework needs to work in harmony with the Habitats and Birds Directives (Nature Directives) and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD), as well as with other international agreements.

At a minimum, the technical measures must apply to the same marine habitats and marine species, including mammals, seabirds and reptiles, as in the Nature and Marine Strategy Framework Directives.

One way the final technical measures framework can properly protect sensitive species and habitats is with strong wording that does not conflict with environmental laws, for example the Habitats Directive requirement to maintain or restore species and habitats to ‘favourable conservation status’.

The proposal’s wording risks this and it must be changed by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament.

The Commission’s proposal also contains specific rules on avoiding by-catches, that is unwanted catches of marine species, and on achieving ‘good environmental status’ for EU waters.

However, the proposal’s rules on these are not always clear or consistent with EU environmental laws and international agreements. This must be remedied in the final technical measures framework.

This briefing is part of a series ClientEarth has written on the Commission’s Technical Conservation Measures Framework proposal.

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Andrew Pescod