A ban on bottom-trawling – one of EFTTA’s key lobby targets – has been introduced by UK ministers to protect threatened sealife in 60 square nautical miles of sea off the South West coast of England.

About 10% of Lyme Bay, from West Bay to Beer Head, will be permanently closed to scallop dredgers and bottom trawlers, which drag nets along the seabed, to safeguard the area’s rich marine life and habitats.

After public consultation and a full assessment of the impacts, the government has ordered that the area be closed from early July.

EFTTA, the European Fishing Tackle Trade Association, today applauded the decision.

Jean-Claude Bel, EFTTA chief executive officer, said: "This decision is very welcome. One of our main targets, as an organisation that fights for the future of recreational fishing, is to get bottom trawling banned.

"It is important that we work with the appropriate agencies and organisations to demonstrate the harm that bottom trawling does to the environment and the inevitable adverse effect this has on fish stocks.

"In this particular case, the UK government clearly felt the research that had been compiled by the Marine Conservation Society, Natural England, Seasearch divers, marine scientists and the Devon Wildlife Trust was overwhelming."

In a landmark week, the EU has also clamped down on bottom trawling by adopting new regulations on the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems.
The Resolution on Sustainable Fisheries of the General Assembly of the United Nations of December 2006 has now been passed into EU legislation.

For fishing activities in the areas covered by this regulation, fishing vessels will need special fishing permits for fishing with bottom fishing gear.

The purpose of the Regulation is the protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems, therefore it determines that fishing will be permitted only in the areas where there exists scientific proof that fishing does not cause damage.

Fishing with bottom fishing gear will not be permitted in areas for which scientific data is not available. This provision will be reviewed after a year.

It was additionally agreed that observers will have to be placed on all vessels to monitor fishing activities and ensure that damage will not be caused to vulnerable ecosystems. After a year, there will be a review to ascertain the real need for an observer presence on all vessels.

Slovenian Agriculture Minister Iztok Jarc, chairman of the EU Council of Ministers responsible for fisheries, said: "Today we reached political agreement on a Regulation that will protect vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas not covered by regional fishery management organisations."