Story 4: What options for regulating fishing activities?
The Adlergrund area in the German Baltic Sea is a designated Natura 2000 area (SAC, SPA). The main nature conservation values are wintering sea ducks; harbour porpoise and seals also occur in the area. Both birds and dolphins are implicated by gill net fishery. In the context of debating possible management measures, the question has been raised what legislation could be used as a basis for ensuring the protection of birds and dolphins.
The Habitats Directive demands the designation of special protection areas for harbour porpoise, in particular genetically isolated and very rare variants (such as the eastern Baltic harbour porpoise). In such cases, Member States are obliged to take adequate measures to eliminate dangers, as set out in the Habitats Directive. Action can therefore be taken by the Member States to restrict fisheries if this is necessary for achieving protection objectives. The need for the restriction has to be described and explained in the management plan of the site, explaining why there are no alternative means of reaching the protection objectives. The restriction would then be imposed as part of a protection scheme according to national nature conservation legislation. In an area that is not covered by the Habitats Directive, national nature conservation legislation can still make some management provisions. However, without the overriding guidance of the Habitats Directive, introducing restrictions such as a ban on gill nets is a different process. According to the EC, countries “may take measures for the conservation and management of stocks in waters under their sovereignty or jurisdiction”. This, however, would require the government to apply to the European Commission, with a view to seeking adoption for the proposed measures by the European Council and Parliament. Spatial and/or seasonal restrictions to the use of certain gears would then be enshrined an EU regulation, with immediate effect for fishing vessels flying EU Member States’ flags.