Reducing marine mammal & turtle bycatch in EU fisheries through an effective new regulation on Technical Conservation Measures

This is a copy of the open letter from leading marine scientists to EU representatives regarding improving legal protection.

Reducing marine mammal & turtle bycatch in EU fisheries through an effective new regulation on Technical Conservation Measures

Dear MEP, EU Member State Representative, European Commission,

In the European Union all marine mammals and turtles are protected under the EU Habitats Directive. Yet, for decades, incidental catches of these species in fisheries have been a major conservation and welfare concern with high numbers continuing to die in this way each year. Despite existing EU legal requirements to monitor and reduce bycatch, monitoring has been insufficient in most fisheries and areas and has thus frequently impeded the application of effective mitigation measures 1 .

The Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on the Conservation of Fishery Resources and the Protection of Marine Ecosystems through Technical Measures (2016/0074(COD)) (hereafter referred to as the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation) currently under scrutiny by the European Parliament and the Council provides an opportunity to build upon the EU measures that are currently in place, to more effectively monitor and reduce bycatch of sensitive species such as marine mammals and turtles.

As experts on cetaceans and fisheries management, we are concerned by what appears to be an unambitious tone being set during the negotiations on this proposed legislation. For example, proposals have been made in the European Parliament to (a) remove the ban on driftnets in the Baltic Sea (where recent scientific assessments cite evidence that bycatch in gillnets continues to adversely affect the critically endangered population of Baltic Sea harbour porpoises estimated to number less than 500 individuals) 2 and (b) remove all bycatch monitoring and mitigation measures in South Western Waters (ICES sub-areas VIII, IX & X – Union waters of the Bay of Biscay, Spain, Portugal and offshore, including waters around the Azores) and CECAF zones 35 34.1.1, 34.1.2 and 34.2.0 (Union waters around Madeira and the Canary islands).

Once adopted, the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation is expected to be fundamental for ensuring Union-wide action to minimize, and where possible, eliminate incidental catches of marine mammals and turtles through effective monitoring and mitigation, in accordance with the strict protection required under the Habitats Directive.

We therefore urge you to ensure that the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation includes requirements to:

  • more effectively monitor incidental catches of marine mammals and turtles, irrespective of vessel size, and report data annually to the EU;
  • progressively minimize and, where possible, eliminate incidental catches of sensitive species;
  • ensure that monitoring and mitigation are based on the best available science with credible assessment of their effectiveness;
  • ensure that EU standards and compliance measures are set in every sea basin; and
  • maintain the driftnet ban in the Baltic.

We call on you to guarantee that EU legislation is not weakened and that protection and conservation measures for sensitive species threatened by fishing operations are duly implemented and improved to minimise impacts on these species.


The undersigned cetacean and fisheries experts:

Name  & Affiliation

Professor Àlex Aguilar,Universitat de Barcelona, Spain;Dr Matthieu Authier,                    Observatoire Pelagis,Université de La Rochelle-CNRS, France; Dr Simon Berrow,          Irish Whale and Dolphin Group, Ireland Galway-Mayo Institute ofTechnology, Ireland; Dr Arne Bjørge,Institute of Marine Research,Norway Co-chair,International Whaling Commission (IWC) Bycatch Mitigation Initiative Chair Norwegian Marine Mammal Scientific Advisory Board Member, ICES Working Group Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME) Member, IUCN Marine Mammal Protected Areas (MMMPA) Task Force, Norwegian delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Patricia Brtnik, Deutsches Meeresmusem, Germany, German delegate for Agreement on the  Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS); Dr Kees (C.J.) Camphuysen, Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea    Research, The Netherlands Utrecht University,The Netherlands; Ida Carlen, Chair, Jastarnia Group Coalition Clean Baltic, Sweden; Dr Julia Carlström, Swedish Museum of Natural History, Sweden Member, Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) Member, Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) Swedish delegate for ASCOBANS; Professor Boris Culik, F³: Forschung. Fakten. Fantasie, Germany; Rob Deaville, Cetacean Investigation Stranding Programme, Zoological Society of London (ZSL),UK; Dr Geneviève Desportes, Former Coordinator for the ASCOBANS North Sea Harbour Porpoise Action Plan (2011-2015); Dr Peter Evans, Chair, ASCOBANS Bycatch Working Group University of Bangor, UK Sea   Watch Foundation, UK; Professor Antonio Fernandez, University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria,Spain; Dr Caterina Fortuna, Italian National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research,Italy; Dr Alexandros Frantzis; Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute, Greece; Luís Freitas,Head of the Science Unit, Madeira Whale Museum, Madeira, Portugal Portuguese delegate for IWC Scientific Committee;Tilen Genov, President, Morigenos – Slovenian Marine Mammal Society, Slovenia; Jan Haelters,Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium Belgian delegate for ASCOBANS;Sami Hassani, Océanopolis, France; Dr Helena Herr, Germany; Erich Hoyt,Co-Chair, IUCN MMMPA Task Force;Lonneke IJsseldijk,Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Dr Paul Jepson,Cetacean InvestigationStranding  Programme, ZSL,UK; Sara Königson Swedish University of Agriculture Science,  Sweden Member, ICES Working Group for  Bycatch of Protected Species (WGBYC) Member, Jastarnia Group Swedish delegate for ASCOBANS; Sven Koschinski, Meereszoologie, Germany; Dr Russell Leaper, UK delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Dr Ana Marçalo, University of the Algarve, Portugal Member,ICES WGBYC; Dr Sandro Mazzariol, University of Padua, Italy Cetaceans Strandings Emergency Response Team, Italy Chair, IWC Expert Panel on Strandings Italian delgate for IWC Scientific Committee; Dr Sinead Murphy, Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, Ireland;Dr Simon Northridge, Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU), University of St Andrews, UK Member, ICES WGBYC; Dr Giuseppe Notarbartolo di Sciara, Co-Chair, IUCN MMMPA Task Force Deputy Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission,Cetacean Specialist Group Name Affiliation; Dr Simone Panigada, Tethys Research Institute, Italy; Dr Iwona Pawliczka, Prof.Krzysztof Skóra Hel Marine Station, University of Gdańsk, Poland; Dr Helene Peltier, Observatoire Pelagis, Université de La Rochelle- CNRS, France Member, ICES WGBYC; Dr Graham Pierce, Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas (CSIC), Spain Spanish delegate for IWC Scientific Committee Member, IWC Standing Working Group of the Bycatch Mitigation Initiative, Co- chair, ICES WGMME; Dimitar Popov, Green Balkans, Bulgaria; Dr Lindsay Porter, Co-Convener, Small Cetaceans IWC Scientific Committee SMRU (Hong Kong), University of St.Andrews, UK; Dr Violin, St.Raykov BlackSea4FishProject GFCM FAO Coordinator,Institute of Oceanology- BAS,Bulgaria; Dr Fiona Read, University of Aberdeen, UK Whale and Dolphin Conservation,UK Member, ICES WGMME; Dr Randy Reeves, Chair, IUCN Species Survival Commission, Cetacean Specialist Group; Professor Vincent Ridoux  Observatoire Pelagis, Université de La Rochelle-CNRS, France; Dr Meike Scheidat,Wageningen Marine Research, The Netherlands   Dutch delegate for IWC Scientific Committee; Mark Simmonds, OBE,Humane Society International; Dr Renaud de Stephanis, Conservation Information and Research on Cetaceans (CIRCE), Spain; Dr Nick Tregenza, Chelonia Limited University of Exeter, UK; Dr Adriana Vella,Conservation Biology Research Group, University of Malta, Malta; Dr Els Vermeulen,Mammal Research Institute Whale Unit, University   of Pretoria, South Africa Belgian delegate for IWC Scientific Committee.                                          



1 ASCOBANS. 2015. Report on the Expert Workshop on the Requirements of Legislation to Address Monitoring and Mitigation of Small Cetacean Bycatch. Bonn, Germany, 21-23rd January 2015. 37 pp.