Tory MEPs swing vote against deep-sea conservation

11 December 2013

The votes of Tory MEPs today saw the European Parliament narrowly fail to adopt a ban on deep-sea trawling.

Labour MEPs supported the ban, which aimed to phase out trawling below 600 metres - recognised by scientists as by far the most destructive fishing activity - in line with their work for a more sustainable EU Common Fisheries Policy.

Tory MEPs, however, joined forces with other right-wing groups to vote down the ban, and also voted to delay progress on the draft legislation, meaning better conservation measures for deep-sea species are unlikely to be taken forward until after the 2014 European elections.

Linda, Labour's European spokesperson on fisheries, said:

"This proposed ban was supported by all the major scientific evidence available and so it is regrettable Tory MEPs have not backed this measure.

"To prioritise a very small sector of the fishing fleet and their most destructive activity over the long term sustainability of our oceans shows their lack of commitment on this issue. This is especially clear when we know less-destructive fishing gears can be used which cause no damage to the sea bed and support more jobs.”

Currently a small number of large fishing vessels, primarily from France and Spain, are able to cause enormous damage to the sea bed using an outdated and indiscriminate technique. The proposal would specifically ban the trawling method, whilst allowing other more sustainable deep-sea fishing to continue.

Such a precautionary measure is needed due to the high vulnerability of deep-sea stocks and the delicate ecosystems and unique biodiversity on the sea bed, which provide opportunities for scientific research.

National governments across the EU must now debate the issue and come to a position.

Linda added:

"We urge the government to play its role and push for the issue to be debated as soon as possible. It must show the same commitment to protecting the deep-sea environment as it has to reforming the Common Fisheries Policy."

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