European Parliament fails to ban destructive deep-sea fisheries and prevent overfishing

Press release - December 10, 2013
Brussels/Strasbourg – The European Parliament today rejected a phase-out of deep-sea bottom trawling and gillnetting, but endorsed other measures to reform some of the rules that govern deep-sea fishing. The Parliament also approved a fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco, which will further fuel overfishing of some stocks and opens the door to fishing in the waters of the occupied territory of Western Sahara.


Greenpeace EU fisheries policy adviser Justine Maillot said: “The European Parliament’s approach to deep-sea fishing is at best half-hearted. It failed to ban the devastating and indiscriminate practice of bottom trawling. It is astonishing that subsidised fishing vessels can continue to plough the seafloor with monster nets that crush everything in their path.”

Deep-sea ecosystems are among the most vulnerable on the planet. Bottom trawling smashes corals and indiscriminately sweeps up many creatures that are not part of the target catch. Without subsidies, deep-sea trawling would be unprofitable [1]. Comparatively few fishermen in France, Spain and Portugal specialise in deep-sea fishing with trawls, yet their impact is disproportionately large.

In a separate vote, the European Parliament endorsed a new fisheries agreement between the EU and Morocco, the biggest between the EU and any other country both in terms of its monetary value and the total amount of fish that can be caught. Its adoption has been controversial, because the deal covers fishing grounds off the coast of the occupied territory of Western Sahara and was negotiated without consulting or respecting the rights and interest of the Sahrawi people.

Maillot added: “Fish like mackerel, sardines and sardinella are important species for communities along the coast of the entire West African region. Except for sardine stocks, most of them are already fished to, or even beyond, sustainable limits. Increasing the EU catch in the waters of Morocco and Western Sahara will lead to overfishing and conflict with the needs and interests of local people.”

In December 2011, the European Parliament rejected a temporary extension of a previous deal with Morocco. Consequently, no EU-registered vessels had been allowed to fish in the waters of Morocco and Western Sahara since January 2012.

The Parliament also formally concluded the reform of the EU’s Common Fisheries Policy by adopting the new Regulations on fisheries management and the marketing of seafood products, as agreed with Council in May 2013.



[1] Greenpeace (2011) Until the very last fish: the absurd model of deep sea fisheries:

Justine Maillot – Greenpeace EU fisheries policy adviser: +32 (0)479 996922,

Greenpeace EU pressdesk: +32 (0)2 274 1911,

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