The EU Commission has acted to close 87 sensitive zones to all bottom gears in the EU waters of the North-East Atlantic.
Based on the Deep-sea Access Regulation and on the advice from the scientists of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the new regulation protects 57 vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems.
Virginius Sinkevičius, Commissioner for the Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, said:
“Our oceans and fisheries depend on healthy marine ecosystems. By closing 17% of the area between 400-800 meters depth of EU waters of the North-East Atlantic to bottom fishing gears, we are delivering on our commitment to protect and restore marine life and after 4 years we finally implement one of the key provisions of the Deep-Sea Access Regulation. It is our duty to our society, to the future generations and in particular to those whose livelihood depend on marine resources. I am grateful for the commitment and efforts made by the fisheries sector to accompany this new chapter of ocean conservation.”
The total area of the closures represents 16,419 km² reserved for the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems below 400 metres. This represents 1.16% of the EU waters of the North-East Atlantic. The closures concern vessels equipped with bottom gears, meaning bottom trawls, dredges, bottom-set gill nets, bottom-set longlines, pots and traps.
The measure was drafted after extensive consultations with Member States and stakeholders, including the fishing industry and NGOs over the past two years. After the ban on bottom trawling below 800 meters, which was introduced in 2016, these closures offer further protection to help restore vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold waters coral reefs, sea mounts and sea pens in deep waters.
The implementing act adopted today will enter into force 20 days after publication in the Official Journal of the European Union and will be immediately applicable to all vessels of EU Member States and of third countries operating in EU waters.