Call for ban on bottom trawling in Spanish territorial waters – Fishupdate.com

Call for ban on bottom trawling in Spanish territorial waters Published:  17 March, 2006

THE international organisation for the protection of the seas, Oceana has called for a ban on bottom trawling in Spanish territorial waters. Oceana has also called for a ban on the use of rockhopper gear, an artefact which it says, when attached to the underside of fishing gear, penetrates rocky and coralline ecosystems and causes serious damage.

The organisation has been backed by the federations of Fishermen’s Associations of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country. They have written to the Ministry of Agriculture demanding the abolition of bottom trawling in the 12 miles of Spanish territorial waters in the North Atlantic, a request that Oceana has been making since 2003.

In a letter sent on 8 March to Juan Carlos Martín Fragueiro, the General Secretary of Maritime Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture, the presidents of the federations argued that the artisanal fleet “is being left completely unprotected in its repeated accusations of trawlers encroaching on their fishing grounds and the loss of their fishing tackle”, due to the activities of bottom trawlers in areas of territorial waters that have traditionally been the operating zones of the artisanal fleet.

The fishermen’s representatives refer in their letter to reports by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography which “put a particular emphasis on the need for an environmental focus on fisheries management, recommending an increase in efforts to protect marine habitats.”

According to the federations of Fishermen’s Associations, the protection of habitats is incompatible with a fishing technique which, leaving aside the selectivity factor, causes damage to sea beds and their animal and plant communities; damage which they say will take decades, and in the case of coral, centuries, to recover.

Ever since Oceana was established in Europe, the organisation has been calling on European governments to ban bottom trawling on the continental shelf and in deep waters. It says bottom trawling should be limited, with stringent restrictions, to continental slope waters where it has been demonstrated that there are no sensitive ecosystems which could be affected by this destructive fishing practice.

Oceanographer Xavier Pastor, the director of Oceana in Europe, has said: “This dovetailing of the opinions of fishermen, scientists and environmentalists is going to make it difficult from now on for anyone to dare classify requests for a ban on trawling as simply a radical gambit by our organisation”.

It is Oceana’s view that fishing subsides from the European Union, the Spanish government and the governments of the Autonomous Communities should be directed exclusively at empowering selective, artisanal fishing and to financing the scrapping of bottom trawlers.

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