Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) and Federal Ministry of Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany have developed tangible proposals for restrictions on professional fisheries in the marine protected areas of the North Sea. These were transmitted to the EU Commission as a “joint recommendation” and concern the Natura 2000 sites in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The BMU and BMEL recommend measures to protect the threatened species and habitats occurring there. These include, for example, porpoises and seabirds, reefs and sandbars. They are expected to contribute to reaching the goal by 2020 of bringing the marine environment back to a “good state”.
Environment Minister, Svenja Schulze, said: “The endangered species and habitats of our oceans and oceans, such as porpoises, the red-throats and the red-throated divers, need better protection. For marine protected areas to live up to their name, restrictions on local fisheries are necessary. By submitting proposals for this, we have now created the prerequisite for the EU Commission to issue corresponding regulations.”
The proposed measures concern the Natura 2000 sites “Doggerbank”, “Borkum Riffgrund”, “Sylter Außenriff” and “Eastern German Bight”. These together cover about 28 percent of the area of the foreign trade zone. Within these areas, certain fishing techniques in professional fisheries are to be prohibited or limited in time on part-areas. Rules are proposed for the use of gill nets and trawl nets to better protect marine mammals and seabirds, as well as reefs and sandbars and the species dependent thereon.
The submitted recommendations are coordinated with all affected EU member states, which exercise non-German flag fishing rights in the German EEZ. The next step is now for the EU Commission to make the recommendations binding in the context of a regulation.
The EEZ refers to the area beyond the territorial sea, ie the sea area at a distance of 12 to a maximum of 200 nautical miles from the coastline, where the adjoining coastal State can to a limited extent exercise sovereign rights and jurisdiction. The responsibility for these protected areas in the EEZ lies with the German government, while the territories in the territorial sea (up to 12 m) are the responsibility of the federal states.
The Natura 2000 Guidelines (the Fauna-Flora Habitat Directive and the Birds Directive) identify species and habitats for which protected areas must be designated in order to achieve an ecologically coherent network (NATURA 2000).
Germany, it was gathered, has an obligation to establish measures for the preservation or restoration of the so-called “favourable conservation status” of these species and habitats. The fisheries sector is defined under the rules of the “Common Fisheries Policy Regulation”. The “joint recommendation” should therefore be submitted to and coordinated with all economically affected EU Member States.
If an agreement has been reached with all the countries concerned, then the “joint recommendation” can be submitted to the Commission, which then binds it by a regulation. For fisheries management in the Natura 2000 sites in the EEZ of the North Sea, this agreement took place in December 2018/2019.