EU driftnet ban 'unnecessary' in UK, concludes report –

EU driftnet ban ‘unnecessary’ in UK, concludes report Published:  27 June, 2014

SEAFISH has today made available a report calling for an immediate re-think over the universal ban on driftnet fishing being proposed by the EU in order to help inform wider debate on the topic. 

The independently authored report, which explores the economic and environmental impacts of the proposed ban, reaches the conclusion that the proposed ban is ‘unnecessary, heavy handed, disproportionate and inappropriate for UK waters’.  

In compiling the report it was found that the proposed ban is almost universally unwelcome in the UK, to the extent that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has authored a Letter of Consultation counselling against a full ban. 

This has had the effect of generating some unusual alliances across fishing interests in the UK. 

Fishermen, managers, legislators, campaigners and Non-Governmental Organisations are opposed to this ban as it stands and are calling for exemptions, at the very least, in order to ensure this low-impact, versatile and iconic form of fishing can continue in to the future.

The report goes on to state that by blanket banning a practice that is widely used by small boat fishermen in the UK, it will not only endanger the livelihoods of a significant number of subsistence fishermen across the UK but it may also fail in its environmental objectives given that the problems it seeks to address do not exist within UK waters.

Instead of a blanket ban the report suggests that further regionalised decision making when it comes to Common Fisheries Reform may be a better option in order that we achieve the desired environmental goals. 

The content will be used to help inform Seafish’s submission to the consultation exercise and is available for industry and other stakeholders to independently view ahead of the submission deadline on Monday 28 June 2014.

Tom Pickerell, Technical Director at Seafish said: ‘The report shows that by trying to solve an issue that exists primarily within Mediterranean waters, the EU have not taken account of the implications at a local level here in the UK. 

‘It has become a clear case of what is right for one, is not right for another.  Larger scale drift net fishing is undoubtedly damaging in other areas of the EU but not evidenced here in the UK, so a far more considered assessment is required.

‘The way UK fishermen use driftnets is on a small scale, often seasonal, and usually with the vessel close by, meaning environmental impacts when compared to other gear types are very low. 

‘For this not to be taken into consideration by the EU seems to be a mistake and industry and stakeholders are united against the current proposals.’

Jim Masters, of Pelican’s Foot Associates who authored the report, states: ‘The UK driftnet fisheries are considered to be very ‘clean’ in wider environmental terms, and it has yet to be shown that they  have significant close contact with the endangered, threatened and protected species mentioned by the EU. 

‘It would be far better for the EU to therefore ensure that all fisheries are managed effectively and stocks are brought under formal scientific assessment. 

‘This would do as much to minimise the environmental impacts of driftnet fishing as any ban might have. ‘

The ban is proposed to come into place on the 1 January 2015 subject to agreement with Member States and the European Parliament.

The full report can be found on the Seafish website

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