Statement by Commissioner Sinkevičius on EU action on by-catch of dolphins and other marine animals

Today I have written to Fisheries and Environment Ministers of 22 European Union Member States about the issue of incidental catches of dolphins and other marine animals in EU waters, especially in the Bay of Biscay and the Celtic Sea,to urge them to collaborate in finding a solution for this situation. As the European Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, I am fully committed to resolve this problem.

We have already asked the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) for an urgent update to scientific advice. I will also raise this issue in the coming Environmental and Fisheries Councils. On the basis of these discussions, I will work on next steps to take, considering all possible options.

The levels of by-catch we are facing are not acceptable. It can result in the extinction of local populations of protected species.

According to reports, 1200 dead dolphins washed up on the beaches of the Bay of Biscay from December 2018 to March 2019, with possibly higher numbers expected this year. Most of these dolphins bore the markings of fishing gear and probably died in fishing nets. In the Baltic Sea, the already small sub-population of dolphins (harbour porpoise) is confronted with further danger from static fishing nets and gill-nets.

These are just the most glaring examples, but this problem is, to some extent, present in all EU seas and we must work together to address it. Although the EU already has protection mechanisms in place with the Birds and Habitats Directive, the Technical Measures Regulation of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, it is up to the Commission and the Member States to ensure that they are fully applied and effective.