European Parliament finally adopts its report on Biodiversity: what’s in it for recreational anglers?

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25 Jun

On 9 June, the European Parliament adopted its non-binding resolution on the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030: Bringing nature back into our lives. Adopted more than a year after the Commission published its Strategy, the Parliament welcomes the ambition of the Strategy to ensure that by 2050 the world’s ecosystems are restored, resilient, and adequately protected.

European Parliament backs the objective to protect 30% of the sea and land area

Taking stock of the 2020 Biodiversity objectives and the lack of notable progress, Members of the European Parliament strongly backed this new Strategy, which must adequately tackle all five main drivers of change: changes in land and sea use, direct exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.

The Parliament resolution addresses a number of topics of interest for European anglers both in freshwater and in marine ecosystems, such as the definition of protected and strictly protected areas and their access. The Commission has indeed an objective of protecting 30% of the EU’s land and sea areas, of which a third (i.e. 10%) should be strictly protected. These targets should be achieved by the EU as a whole, as confirmed by the Council. The Parliament, while strongly supporting these targets, argues for binding targets to be reached by Member States at the national level.

Who can access strictly protected areas?

In addition, the Parliament resolution calls for the creation of a clear definition of strict protection. Echoing the Council conclusions on biodiversity, which state that a stricter level of protection may allow for certain human activities to be carried out in line with the conservation objectives of the protected area, the resolution “considers that human activities that are compatible with protection goals, or even positively contribute to biodiversity, should be admissible in areas under strict protection.”

Without explicitly asking the Commission and the Member States to allow in or ban recreational fishing from strictly protected areas, the resolution asks for a clarification on “what kind of human activities might potentially be considered as allowed under strict protection status when they leave natural processes essentially undisturbed and are compatible with the ecological requirements of the areas, on the basis of a case-by-case assessment based on the best available science.” The fact that the Parliament did not take further position on the definition of and the access to protected and strictly protected areas leaves a greater room for manoeuvre to the Commission and the Member States.

But what does that exactly mean for anglers?

This European Parliament resolution is a non-binding resolution, which means that it does not apply as such as a legislation. It gives an opinion of the European Parliament on the roll-out of the Biodiversity Strategy and its derived policy and legislative measures.

In parallel, a European Commission Expert Group gathering Member States and stakeholders, continues working on the Commission’s non-binding ‘draft technical note on criteria and guidance for protected areas designations’ to provide a common framework of understanding to Member States. In an earlier version of the note, the Commission put controversially angling on the same footing as mining, adding that those ‘extractive activities’ should not be allowed in strictly protected areas. In a revised version of the note, the sentence has been removed at the request of EAA, EFTTA and other stakeholders. It removes the risk for recreational angling to automatically be banned, by definition, from these areas.

Although non-binding, the technical note will influence the upcoming legislation stemming from the Biodiversity Strategy and its implementation at the national level. The Parliament resolution will feed into the expert group’s work on the technical note, with a view of agreeing on the criteria by the end of 2021.

Given the non-binding character of the technical note, it means that ultimately, the decisions will be taken by the Member States at the national level.

EAA and EFTTA have been – and continue to be – fully engaged, at European and national level, in shaping these decisions. The two associations welcome the increased target for protected areas and advocate in favour of recreational angling access of in both protected and strictly protected areas as long as it does not go against the conservation objectives set for these areas. This access however needs to be sufficiently controlled (for anglers and other potential users) so that those areas can bear fruits in terms of protection and restoration of the biodiversity and fish stocks. EAA and EFTTA also argue that truly managed and controlled protected areas will benefit everyone, anglers, communities and biodiversity alike.

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