Drift Net Report

29th July 2014 in Europe / Common Fisheries Policy

One of the many mysterious aspects of the Commission’s proposal for blanket ban on drift nets is why the Commission, having commissioned a study into the issue did not wait before leaping prematurely into legislative mode.

It is possible that the Commission was already in receipt of an advance copy of the study – but that only serves to compound the mystery. The selection of quotes from the report which we reproduce below makes it quite clear that:

· there is no justification for the ban (evidence suggests minimal impact on target or bycatch species)

· the ban would have severe economic consequences for drift net fishermen who use them

· the ban would increase the administrative burden on member states

· monitoring of small-scale drift net fisheries has not been seen as a priority because it has not been seen as a high risk activity

For those who wish to read the report in its entirety here is the link

For the Commission, however they got themselves into this embarrassing fix, the priority now will be to find a face-saving formulae that will enable it to climb down from the tree it has got stuck in with as much dignity and as little loss of face as possible. One of the key aspect of the report is its recognition that member states with drift net fisheries have tended not to spend too much of their scarce resources on small-scale fisheries that were not deemed to be a problem. This risk-based focus is at the heart of most modern monitoring, surveillance and control approaches. However, that could change if the Commission insists on additional monitoring to cover its faux pas.


Final Report Selected Quotations

There is no indication that authorised driftnets <2.5km currently employed by EU vessels cause indiscriminate catches at comparative scales to the large-scale nets previously employed and currently active small-scale driftnets identified in the current study, take small proportions of target species catches compared with other national fisheries.

There is a continued need to monitor and mitigate impacts of driftnets on cetaceans, we consider this need to be concurrent with the need to monitor impacts in any passive net fishery within the EU or used by EU vessels; based on their similar mode of deployment and characteristics.

there is also a continued need to mitigate impacts of driftnets on other species with special conservation and protection needs, to the same extent that there is a need in any passive net fishery within the EU or used by EU vessels

There is no indication that high levels of bycatch exist in currently active small-scale driftnet fisheries identified through case studies in the North Sea, North East Atlantic, Baltic Sea, Black Sea and the Mediterranean.

There is no evidence to suggest stocks targeted by small-scale driftnets in the North Sea and North East Atlantic are at risk of overexploitation from these fisheries

Current control means are deemed to be effective at detecting net length infringements by most of the MS’ authorities consulted; management and control authorities consulted in case study consultations indicated that small scale driftnet fisheries are not considered to present a high risk of infringements and therefore are not prioritised for surveillance.

However, infringements have been reported in the Mediterranean

The extent that different stakeholders accept the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach to fisheries management is similar across regions. It seems that the majority of the regions accept and try to adopt the ecosystem-based approach to their fisheries management

Apparently, there is very little emphasis on collecting data for driftnet fisheries over other fisheries and the data collection mechanism is oriented towards other fisheries across all regions.

the majority of the MS expressed the opinion that no adequate consultations have been held, a view held especially by the fishermen that have been affected by the regime.

44 currently active driftnet fisheries were identified by this study across 7 of the 10 MS surveyed. These fisheries account for around 3000 vessels fishing both in marine and inland waters, targeting over 20 different species, including marine and anadromous and catadromous species. All of the fisheries identified can be characterised as small-scale, with the majority of vessels less than 10 m in length and operating from a range of ports within each Member State. The vessels tend to polyvalent in nature using a variety of other gears, often using drfitnets to provide flexibility at different times of the year to target particular species.

Environmental impacts of driftnet fisheries on target species were considered to be marginal

effective management measures are in place for most of these fisheries

It remains a possibility that risks have been over interpreted

risks posed by driftnet fisheries are comparable to those from other passive gears commonly same regions (e.g. set gillnets and trammel nets).

Based on the information available for this evaluation, the risks posed by fisheries are likely to be low for ‘least concern’ species identified, given indicative low levels of effort resulting from these fisheries. However, for more vulnerable species, low levels of interactions may pose more serious risks, but the data does not exist to properly assess risk quantitatively

Issues remain in some regions with the effectiveness of MS control in relation to Annex VIII species (Reg EC 1239/98) (e.g. Black Sea, Mediterranean)

It is not clear what environmental impact Policy Option 3 (Selected Bans) and Policy Option 4 (total ban) will have. Transfer of effort from driftnet fisheries to other metiers could result in either positive or negative impacts on the environment depending on the relative impact of the impacts of driftnets compared to the new gears.

driftnet fishers will remain dependent on driftnet fisheries as their main fishing gear, or as one of many gears that provides flexibility in fishing opportunities.

A (Selected Ban) will result in a substantial increase in administrative burden for both EU and National administrations to implement, though as described above it is not clear if there would be any overall environmental benefit

There is the potential for fisheries to be banned due to a failure for MS to prove achievement of specified targets, despite having no significant adverse environmental impacts, resulting in unnecessary social and economic impacts on fishers.

A (Total Ban) will result in an increase in administrative burden for MS to implement, particularly those MS which currently do not prioritise driftnet fisheries for control activities. This Policy Option would result in significant social and economic impacts for affected fishers,