EU fishing sector expresses disappointment at political agreement on Nature Restoration Law

Photo: Europêche
Photo: Europêche

Europêche, the representative body for the European fishing industry, strongly criticises the agreement recently reached by the Council and the European Parliament on the Nature Restoration Law.

While Europêche recognises the importance of protecting and restoring nature, the sector voiced several significant concerns about the regulation that have been ignored by policy-makers.

Some of the primary concerns include the complete absence of a cost-benefit assessment, the artificially broadened scope, which will result in more area closures, and the discriminatory treatment when compared to renewable energy. The sector believes this law will only feed the already overwhelming bureaucracy and environmental NGO lobbies, but not the people in Europe.

Europêche urges the Council and the Parliament to reject the political agreement.

The sector said one of the fundamental issues with this law is the absolute lack of a socio-economic impact assessment. The European Commission has failed to provide any concrete data on the "costs and benefits" that this new law is expected to generate for member states, marine ecosystems and the fisheries sector.

Instead, the legislation primarily relies on theoretical gains and potential undocumented benefits, which is not a solid basis for policymaking.

"The Regulation should only entry into force when the commission provides robust and scientific data on the impact the new law will have on food availability and prices, company costs as well as fishing grounds affected," Daniel Voces, managing director of Europêche, stated. "It is a real shame that in the end policymakers decided not to sustain this approach."

In a publication, the commission recognises that under the EU Habitat Directive, less than two per cent of the European marine areas are in need of restoration, only to contradict itself in the same document and propose to multiply by a factor of 10 the areas in need for restoration (20 per cent of the seas) without any science-based justification. Europêche said this threshold goes beyond the international target agreed in Kunming-Montreal (COP15 – CBD), putting once more the fishing fleet at competitive disadvantage.

Consequently, according to Europêche, member states will be spending time and millions of Euros in artificially identifying and restoring areas that are not in need of restoration. The sector will likewise suffer the consequences of uncalled additional area closures.

Another pressing concern is the lack of extra funding to support the implementation of the Regulation. The EU fishing sector is already under significant pressure to decarbonise, minimise its footprint, and endure closures of traditional fishing grounds.

Expecting fishers to achieve unrealistic targets with limited funding, especially in a challenging economic environment, is absurd and counterproductive, the sector added.

"New legislative ambitions require adequate funding," said Voces. "The proposal does not guarantee the creation of a dedicated fund, without which, targets will be unattainable and the policy will fail. We should remember that fisheries is very particular in the use of funds and therefore this absence could not be covered by deviating funding from other areas."

Europêche is equally concerned about the exemption for renewable energy industries from complying with some environmental law provisions.

"This approach is appalling, especially in light of the unresolved environmental concerns highlighted by the Court of Auditors, regarding offshore renewable energy," added Voces. "It also creates an unfair playing field for the fishing sector since both sectors are competing for the maritime space."

Once again, the EU is willing to limit its production of food without even considering the consequences, at home and abroad, of such decisions. For Europêche, the troubled debate regarding the new environmental law makes it clear that the EU needs to return to a model where all primary food production is placed under the mandate of a dedicated commissioner and that needs to happen in the next mandate of the European Commission (2024-2029).

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