EU Marine Action Plan

YEE Calls for Ambitious National Roadmaps for EU Marine Action Plan Implementation, including a ban on bottom trawling in MPAs

More than a year since the EU Marine Action Plan was adopted, there is a critical need to ensure that both the European Commission and Member States are held accountable for its effective implementation. The success or failure of this initiative will hinge upon the national roadmaps to be submitted by each Member State by the end of March. The publication of these national roadmaps will be closely monitored, especially considering the tendency of Member State governments to oppose ocean protection matters, often favouring economic interests over environmental ones. This also became evident in the disappointing response of the European Parliament (EP) to the Communication, which rejected the majority of its content. 


Youth and Environment Europe strongly supports the gradual phasing out of bottom trawling in all marine protected areas (MPAs) by 2030 as proposed in the Marine Action Plan. This would be in line with an agreement made between 196 countries, including the EU, during the Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) to reach a 30% target of protected land and oceans by 2030 in a landmark agreement for the protection of biodiversity. The method of bottom trawling is notorious for its detrimental impact on marine ecosystems due to several reasons, one of which is significant by-catch, such as marine mammals, seabirds, and other fish species. Bottom trawling can also cause extensive damage to sensitive habitats, disrupting the balance of marine ecosystems and damaging biodiversity. Not least because of the use of bottom trawling, European seas are in a severe environmental crisis. The European Environment Agency recently reported that “almost all marine species groups appear to be in bad condition throughout Europe’s seas, with mixed recovery trends”.


The Parliament had a chance to advocate strongly for ocean conservation shortly before the elections and urge the EU Member States to align its fisheries with nature protection policies. They missed this opportunity: Their report on the Marine Action Plan takes a concerning stance towards the use of harmful fishing equipment, suggesting to continue using bottom trawling within MPAs. The European People’s Party (EPP) holds the view that the proposed ban of bottom trawling in MPAs puts the future of fishermen at risk, labelling the Action Plan “discriminatory”. While coastal communities and the impact of the Marine Action Plan on fishers must not be ignored, YEE believes that this pure focus on the economic impact is too short-sighted. The livelihoods of coastal communities ultimately depend on seas with good environmental status and healthy fish stocks, which can simply not be reconciled with the practice of bottom trawling in MPAs. We need cross-cutting and forward-thinking policymaking to address economic concerns in the fisheries sector alongside the climate and nature crises, including support  to fishers in transitioning away from destructive fishing gear to minimise negative socio-economic effects.


As Youth Environment Europe, we call upon all EU Member States to commit promptly and effectively to implementation of the Marine Action Plan, and urge the Commission to conduct and publicly release science-based assessments of their national roadmaps. Furthermore, we demand that any identified weaknesses be addressed by Member States, and call for close monitoring and enforcement to ensure their timely implementation. Only through concerted effort and accountability can meaningful progress be made towards safeguarding our marine environment for future generations.

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