|Irish coral reefs safeguarded for the time being
Brussels 19 December 2007
The European Council's ban on destructive fishing practices, including bottom trawling, in waters west of Ireland home to vulnerable cold-water coral reef is a welcome step for the protection of these fragile ecosystems. However, Fisheries Ministers' agreement is weaker than the original proposal by the Irish government to close the areas to all fishing.With vessels fishing in the area, countries such as France and Spain have blocked a more ambitious deal and have negotiated an “opt-out” for pelagic fisheries, which will be permitted in the area through a licensing scheme.
“The closures demonstrate the potential for the Common Fisheries Policy to support conservation measures required under the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Sadly the Council of Ministers failed to agree a complete closure due to the unwillingness of certain Member States to accept the principle of good management for habitat protection,” said Stephan Lutter, WWF International Marine Policy Officer.
The four sites - Belgica and Hovland Mounds, NW and SW Porcupine Bank - covering an area of appr. 2,500 square km were announced by Ireland in 2005 and nominated as Sites of Community Importance (pSCIs) in 2006. Following national stakeholder consultations, Ireland requested protective measures in fisheries management from the European Commission. The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) advised to close the four sites to fishing.
ICES advice to the EC (PDF)
Report of the Ad hoc Group for Western Irish Natura Sites (AGWINS) (PDF with maps)