The Commission of the European Union is taking further steps to control fishing of vulnerable deep-sea species of fish.

Last December the European Commission proposed limits on catches of deep-sea species. These are species such as blue ling, red seabream or black scabbardfish which are caught in waters beyond the main fishing grounds of the continental shelf in the North Atlantic. The Commission today [Friday] issued proposals for additional measures to control the amount of fishing directed at these species, to collect scientific data and to establish enforcement rules to protect these species that are particularly vulnerable to fishing.

Though deep-water fisheries are fairly recent, fishing effort has been steadily increasing. This is why, last December, the Commission proposed as a first step, to limit catches through the setting of total allowable catches (TACs). The present proposal aims to ensure that these TACs are not overshot and to compile scientific data on the species.

"Protection cannot come soon enough for these vulnerable species. We are determined to avoid repeating past mistakes when measures came too late. We must apply the precautionary approach to these little-known ecosystems and limit both our catches and our fishing effort so that these fisheries are sustainable", Commissioner Franz Fischler, in charge of Agriculture, Rural Development and Fisheries, said.

Under the new measures, fishing permits issued by the Member States would be necessary for vessels holding deep-sea species on board. When issuing the permits the Member States have to ensure that the capacity of the vessels allowed to fish these species is no greater than that of the vessels which in any one of the years 1998, 1999 or 2000 landed set quantities of these species.

To help increase knowledge of these fisheries, additional information would have to be entered in the vessels' logbooks including details of fishing gear used and the time spent in the water.

To ensure the enforcement of the measures, vessels concerned by these fisheries would have to be equipped with fully operational devices to allow for satellite monitoring. Member States would have to identify the ports where vessels holding set quantities of deep-sea fish would have to land their catches. Member States would also have to prepare sampling plans for the deployment of observers on board a number of vessels holding permits.

To see the Commission's full statement, click here.