Decision-Makers Draw a Line Under Deep-Sea Bottom Trawling

Date: June 30, 2016

BRUSSELS—Conservation organisations are welcoming the agreement reached on 30 June by the European Parliament, Council of Ministers, and European Commission on key provisions for a new European Union (EU) regulation on deep-sea fishing that includes a ban on bottom trawling below 800 metres and would close areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems are known or likely to occur.

The agreement comes four years after the Commission published a proposal for a new regulation on deep-sea fishing in the north-east Atlantic Ocean and two and a half years since the Parliament agreed to its position. Luxembourg, which held the rotating EU presidency for the second half of 2015, received a mandate from the Council of the EU’s 28 fisheries ministers in November to commence negotiations with the Parliament and Commission. Those discussions were concluded under The Netherlands, which assumed the presidency in January.

“This agreement goes a good way towards meeting the commitments made by the EU at the U.N. General Assembly and applying them to protect deep-sea ecosystems in EU waters,” said Matthew Gianni of the Deep Sea Conservation Coalition. “We urge vigorous implementation of the regulation once it is formally adopted and encourage the EU to continue working with other countries to enhance the protection of deep-sea ecosystems in international waters and to set science-based catch and bycatch limits for deep-sea fisheries in the north-east Atlantic.”

“Hundreds of scientists and hundreds of thousands of EU citizens called for limits to destructive deep-sea bottom trawling,” said Uta Bellion, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts’ European marine programme. “We welcome the decision by the Council and Parliament to heed this call, thank the Commission for its focus on deep-sea conservation, and congratulate the Luxembourg and Netherlands presidencies for securing this agreement.”

The European Parliament and Council are expected to adopt the final regulation later this year.




The Deep Sea Conservation Coalition is an organisation of more than 70 non-governmental environmental organisations, fishers’ groups, and law and policy institutes that are committed to protecting the deep sea.

The Pew Charitable Trusts is driven by the power of knowledge to solve today’s most challenging problems. Learn more at


The EU has one of the largest deep-sea fishing fleets in the world. Bottom trawlers drag huge, weighted nets along the seafloor destroying deep-water coral, sponge, and other vulnerable habitats that have flourished for thousands of years and whose destruction compromises the capacity of deep-sea ecosystems to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The current regulation for the management of EU deep-sea fisheries has failed to maintain most deep-sea stocks inside safe biological limits and to restore some of the most depleted fish populations in the region. It has also failed to protect vulnerable deep-sea marine ecosystems from highly destructive fishing practices. Numerous scientific papers and reports have consistently identified bottom-trawl fishing as the greatest threat to deep-sea coral and sponge ecosystems.

The prohibition of bottom trawling below 800 metres is a compromise reached between legislators who rejected any form of ban on bottom trawling and those who supported a ban below 600 metres, which, according to scientific research, would best protect vulnerable deep-sea ecosystems and conserve deep-sea species.