Driftnets are large fishing nets that are used close to or on the ocean's surface to catch fish swimming in the sea. During the early 1990s, the EU developed laws on driftnets fisheries. However, this legislative framework on driftnets was very detailed and has shown some weaknesses and loopholes. It has not been too difficult to circumvent the rules since, for example, small-scale driftnets are still allowed. And indeed, the illegal use of driftnets in EU waters continues to be reported.
The goal of this new legislation is to assure the protection and avoid that certain species die out - e.g. sea turtles, sturgeons, cetaceans, etc. - which are threatened by the use of driftnets, no matter which size these nets have, and thereby reducing the overall environmental impact of fisheries.
The then EU Commissioner for Fisheries, Maria Damanaki, published a legislative proposal asking for a total ban on all kind of driftnet fisheries. It was foreseen that taking on board or use any kind of driftnets is prohibited as of 1 January 2015. This concerns all EU vessels in all EU waters. In addition, the new rules contain a broader definition of driftnets to close any possible loophole in the existing laws. This option basically means eliminating any driftnet fishery and is supported by more than 52% of the respondents to the public consultation including fishermen associations and NGOs. However, not much happened in the meantime. Except, the European Parliament found out that the Comission did not prepare this legislation very well. They presented a very flawed Impact Assessment, including the lack of adequate data and a very confusing presentation of figures from various sources.
The regulation was discussed in the Fisheries Committee, the draft report and amendments were published in early 2015. In a next step, it is supposed to be voted on in the European Parliament's plenary before discussions with the Member States start. Yet, this regulation seems to be pretty blocked (it is not moving forward since two years...).
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