Tag Archives: Marine ecosystem

Strategy to strengthen global governance of seas and oceans

Strategy to strengthen global governance of seas and oceans

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Strategy to strengthen global governance of seas and oceans

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Maritime Affairs And Fisheries > Maritime affairs

Strategy to strengthen global governance of seas and oceans

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission of 15 October 2009 – Developing the international dimension of the Integrated Maritime Policy of the European Union [COM(2009) 536 final – Not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

In this Communication, the Commission describes its strategy to strengthen its authority in multilateral and bilateral relations in the domain of maritime affairs. This strategy should allow the European Union (EU) to exercise greater influence over international debate on marine issues in order to safeguard its economic and social interests and increase protection of the environment. It should also contribute to sustainable maritime governance at global level.

This strategy covers a number of domains (for example the protection of marine biodiversity, climate change, maritime safety and security, working conditions on board ships and research into the marine environment) which necessitate international and integrated solutions.

European Union strategy

In order to improve global governance of seas and oceans, the EU must in particular:

  • strengthen its role as a global player through greater and more unified participation in multilateral fora;
  • promote membership of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) at global level;
  • establish high-level dialogues on maritime affairs with key partners, ensuring synergies with existing sectoral dialogues in other policy areas;
  • pursue dialogue on Integrated Maritime Policy (IMP) bilaterally through both European Neighbourhood Policy instruments and multilateral dialogue. Dialogue on IMP may be based on the frameworks put in place at sea-basin-level (e.g. Union for the Mediterranean, Northern Dimension, Black Sea Synergy). It can be supplemented by sharing best practices concerning the implementation of IMP instruments with countries neighbouring the EU and by encouraging these countries to use the instruments;
  • continue to work on moving oceans and coasts higher up the climate change agenda and provide assistance to developing coastal and island states in this field, in line with the EU development cooperation strategies and initiatives;
  • continue to support an integrated approach to the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, particularly in areas beyond national jurisdiction, including for the establishment of marine protected areas;
  • pursue its cooperation with the ILO to encourage decent working conditions in the maritime sector;
  • pursue its actions to ensure freedom, safety and security of navigation, including actions against piracy;
  • continue and strengthen cooperation in research activities with third countries in order to enhance participation in large-scale international research programmes and with countries neighbouring the EU in order to define common regional marine research strategies;
  • ensure coherence between the activities of various organisations, notably in the fisheries, environment and transport fields;
  • encourage the OECD to develop a structure for exchange of best practices on integrated approaches to maritime affairs;
  • develop strategies for all relevant shared sea basins.

Context

The EU must pursue its efforts to improve dialogue with its neighbours, at both bilateral and regional level, including by concluding Regional Seas Conventions.

Regional approaches have already been launched for the Arctic, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean. The preparation of similar approaches for other sea basins is now of paramount importance. The EU can thus contribute to extending Integrated Maritime Policy at global level.

Destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of ecosystems

Destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of ecosystems

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of ecosystems

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Maritime Affairs And Fisheries > Management of fisheries resources and the environment

Destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of ecosystems

Document or Iniciative

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 17 October 2007 on destructive fishing practices in the high seas and the protection of vulnerable deep sea ecosystems [COM(2007) 604 final – not published in the Official Journal].

Summary

The Commission is proposing an ambitious strategy for the protection of fragile ecosystems in the high seas based on the precautionary principle and on prior impact assessment. This also responds to the appeal launched by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in Resolution 61/105 to regulate fisheries in vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems.

Destructive fishing practices in the high seas

The biodiversity and equilibrium of deep-sea marine ecosystems are at threat from human activity. Bottom fishing practices and gears (bottom trawls, dredges, bottom-set gillnets, etc.) may cause irreversible damage to vulnerable marine habitats. Activities such as the production of hydrocarbons, laying of submarine cables or waste dumping, etc. pose other threats.

This finding is based on studies which demonstrated damage to deep coral reefs in the Northeast Atlantic, the West Atlantic and the Tasman Sea.

These activities are also likely to put achievement of the objectives of the 2002 Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development at risk.

Action of the European Union

The action of the European Union (EU) is guided by recommendations made in United Nations Resolution 61/105 for the protection of the vulnerable deep-sea marine environment. This resolution, to which the Commission made an active contribution, calls on Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) and States to adopt and implement measures by 31 December 2008, in accordance with the precautionary principle, ecosystem approaches and international law. These measures define a management system for bottom fishing in the high seas which is based on:

  • impact assessment prior to authorisation of fishing activities;
  • identification of vulnerable marine ecosystems through research and data collection;
  • closure of sensitive areas.

This strategy proposes the ways to implement these recommendations and to go further.

The EU must provide impetus on a global scale for protection of vulnerable deep-sea marine ecosystems, in particular by stimulating international debate. It will support creation of a report on the progress made in the fight against destructive fishing practices which will be presented to the United Nations in 2009. In addition, the EU will further assist the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in compiling and disseminating reliable information on the measures adopted by the Member States. This information will be used as a foundation for technical guidelines for deep sea fisheries. Similarly, collaboration with the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the Regional Marine Conventions will help identify the marine habitats under threat.

RFMOs already exist in the majority of high-seas areas. Ecosystem protection measures have been adopted in these areas, but they must be complemented by a systematic and preventive approach for managing environmental risks. To achieve a high and effective level of protection against damage related to fishing activities, the RFMOs may apply stricter rules to reinforce the protection.

Before the creation of an RFMO, interim measures may be implemented by the States for the conservation and management of zones affected by bottom fishing. The EU is backing this approach as part of ongoing negotiations on the implementation of a new RFMO in the South Pacific. It is also undertaking to help develop interim measures in the Indian Ocean in preparation for an agreement in 2008 and transpose them into Community legislation. In areas where no RFMO is yet in place, the EU is encouraging the launching of negotiations between the parties interested in establishing these organisations.

In areas of the high seas not regulated by an RFMO, bottom fishing activities by Community vessels should be governed by the regulation accompanying this Communication (see Related Acts). This Regulation, which is scheduled for adoption in 2008, implements the United Nations recommendations in respect of these vessels. It stipulates that Community vessels must obtain a special fishing permit for bottom fishing in these areas, which will only be issued after an impact assessment. This should assess the risk of adverse effects on vulnerable marine ecosystems caused by the fishing in question on the basis of detailed operation plans. It also lays down the requirements relating to monitoring and control, for example the presence of on-board observers, and satellite monitoring (VMS) provisions. In addition, it proposes banning the use of bottom fishing gears at depths greater than 1 000 metres. Vessels authorised to fish should also inform the competent authorities of sites with vulnerable ecosystems which they may discover during their operations so that they can be protected if necessary.

Background

The commitment made in Johannesburg positions the issue of destructive fishing practices in a global context. Fisheries must no longer be considered in isolation, but must be fully integrated into a broader sustainability perspective, including the high seas. This is also the approach taken by the Commission’s current proposals for an integrated maritime policy. The EU is determined to follow the principles established in United Nations Resolution 61/105 on the sustainability of fisheries adopted in December 2006.

Related Acts

Council Regulation (EC) No 734/2008 of 15 July 2008 on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears [Official Journal L 201 of 30.070.2008].

Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from bottom fishing

Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from bottom fishing

Outline of the Community (European Union) legislation about Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from bottom fishing

Topics

These categories group together and put in context the legislative and non-legislative initiatives which deal with the same topic.

Maritime Affairs And Fisheries > Management of fisheries resources and the environment

Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from bottom fishing

Document or Iniciative

Council Regulation (EC) No 734/2008 of 15 July 2008 on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears.

Summary

The scope of this Regulation applies to Community fishing vessels using bottom fishing gears * for their activities on the high seas. Vessels which operate in an area regulated by a Regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO) are not subject to this Regulation. It does apply to vessels which carry out activities in an area where an RFMO is in the stages of development and intermediate measures for the protection of the marine environment have been adopted.

To be able to carry out activities with bottom fishing gears in the high seas, Community vessels must obtain a special fishing permit. Applications for special fishing permits must be accompanied by a detailed fishing plan specifying:

  • the area of activity;
  • the targeted species;
  • the type and conditions of use of the gears deployed;
  • a map of the seabed where the fishing activities will be carried out, if necessary.

The permit is issued by the Flag State after they have carried out an impact assessment. This study is based on scientific and technical data relating to the location of vulnerable marine ecosystems * in the area of activity detailed in the fishing plan. It must demonstrate that the fishing activities will not have a significant adverse impact * on the ecosystems in question.

Any changes to the fishing plan must be notified to the competent authority who will examine whether the changes are likely to threaten areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems occur or are likely to occur. The competent authority in the Flag State shall withdraw the special fishing permit if a vessel does not comply with the specified fishing plan.

The principle of precaution applies when the competent authority does not have reliable scientific information on a given area at its disposal. In this case, the use of bottom gears is forbidden. Bottom fishing activities are only authorised when they present no risk of damaging vulnerable marine ecosystems.

When a vessel has an unforeseen encounter with a vulnerable marine ecosystem it must leave the site and refrain from fishing activities in the area. They are only authorised to resume fishing activities in an area foreseen in their fishing plan located a minimum distance of five nautical miles from the site of the encounter. With as little delay as possible, the vessel must inform the competent authorities of their encounter, providing important details such as the nature, location, time, etc. of the encounter.

Member States shall proceed with area closures to fishing with bottom gears when the scientific information confirms the occurrence or likelihood of occurrence of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the area open to fishing. Member States must inform the Commission of any closures. The Commission is then responsible for circulating the notification to all Member States.

In the event of failure of the satellite vessel monitoring system (VMS) fitted on-board a fishing vessel, the master of the vessel must report its geographical location to the Fisheries Monitoring Centre (FMC) in the Flag State every two hours. The vessel is only authorised to return to sea once the competent authority has confirmed that the VMS is functioning perfectly again.

Observers shall monitor the activities of vessels granted a special fishing permit throughout the execution of the fishing plan. During the observation period, the observers must compile information on the catch, changes to the fishing plan, encounters with vulnerable ecosystems, as well as record the depth at which gear is deployed. Observers shall submit a report to the competent authorities in the Member State concerned within twenty days following the end of their mission. A copy of the report shall then be sent to the Commission.

Context

This Regulation forms part of the common fisheries policy and the Union’s environment policy in that it establishes rules which will enable the prevention and cessation of adverse impacts of certain fishing practices on the marine environment.

The Regulation implements the recommendations formulated by the General Assembly of the United Nations (Resolution 61/105 of 8 December 2006) regarding the adoption of measures to eliminate destructive fishing practices.

Key terms of the act
  • Bottom gears: gears deployed in the normal course of fishing operations in contact with the seabed, including bottom trawls, dredges, bottom-set gill nets, bottom-set longlines, pots and traps.
  • Marine ecosystem: a dynamic complex of plant, animal and microorganism communities and their nonliving environment interacting as a functional unit.
  • Vulnerable marine ecosystem: any marine ecosystem whose integrity is threatened by significant adverse impacts resulting from physical contact with bottom gears in the normal course of fishing operations, including, inter alia, reefs, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold water corals or cold water sponge beds. The most vulnerable ecosystems are those that are easily disturbed and in addition are very slow to recover, or may never recover.
  • Significant adverse impacts: impacts which compromise ecosystem integrity in a manner that impairs the ability of affected populations to replace themselves and that degrades the long-term natural productivity of habitats, or causes on more than a temporary basis significant loss of species richness, habitat or community types.

References

Act Entry into force Deadline for transposition into the Member States Official Journal

Regulation (EC) No 734/2008

31.7.2008

OJ L 201 of 30.7.2008