Legal provisions of COM(2007)605 - Protection of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the high seas from the adverse impacts of bottom fishing gears

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Article 1 - Scope

1. This Regulation shall apply to Community fishing vessels carrying out fishing activities with bottom gears in the high seas.

2. This Regulation shall not apply to Community fishing vessels whose areas of operation lie withing areas :

1. Under the responsibility of a regional fisheries management organisation of arrangement with competence to regulate such fishing activities;

2. For which a process for the establishment of a regional fisheries management organisation is underway; where the participants in such process have agreed on interim measures to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems from destructive impacts resulting from the use of bottom gears.

Article 2 - Definitions

For the purpose of this Regulation, the following definitions shall apply:

(a) marine ecosystem means a dynamic complex of plant, animal and micro-organism communities and their non-living environment interacting as a functional unit;

(b) vulnerable marine ecosystem means any marine ecosystem whose specific structure and function is, according to the best scientific information available and to the principle of precaution, likely to be compromised by stress resulting from physical contact with bottom gears in the course of fishing operations, including inter alia reefs, seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold water corals or cold water sponge beds;

(c) bottom gears means bottom trawls, dredges, bottom-set gillnets, bottom-set longlines, pots and traps.

Article 3 - Special fishing permit

1. In order to conduct the fishing activities referred to in Article 1(1), Community fishing vessels must have a special fishing permit.

2. The special fishing permit shall be issued in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No 1627/94 and subject to the conditions established in the present Regulation.

Article 4 - Conditions for issuance

1. Applications for a special fishing permit provided for in Article 3(1) shall be accompanied by a detailed fishing plan specifying in particular:

3. the intended location of the activities,

4. the targeted species,

5. the depth at which the gears will be deployed, and

6. the configuration of the bathymetric profile of the seabed in the intended fishing grounds.

2. The competent authorities shall issue a special fishing permit after having carried out an assessment on the potential impacts of the vessel's intended fishing activities and concluded that such activities are not likely to have significant adverse impacts on vulnerable marine ecosystems.

3. For the purposes of the implementation of the assessment referred to in paragraph 2, the competent authorities shall rely on the best scientific information available concerning the location of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the areas in which the fishing vessels concerned intend to operate. That scientific information shall include, where available, scientific data on the basis of which the likelihood of occurrence of such ecosystems can be estimated.

4. The competent authorities shall apply precautionary criteria in the conduct of the assessment referred to in paragraph 2. In case of doubt on whether the adverse impacts are significant or not, they shall consider that the likely adverse impacts resulting from the scientific advice provided are significant.

5. Where the assessment should conclude that activities carried out in accordance with the submitted fishing plan might result in significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems, the competent authorities shall specify the assessed risks and allow applicants to amend the fishing plan to avoid them. In the absence of such amendments, the competent authorities shall refrain from issuing the requested special fishing permit.

Article 5 - Conditions for validity

1. The special fishing permit provided for in Article 3(1) shall remain valid throughout the execution of the fishing plan submitted in accordance with Article 4(1) on condition that fishing activities conform to such plan at all times.

2. Where circumstances beyond the control of the person responsible for the vessel operations necessitate an alteration of the submitted plans, the person responsible for the vessel's operations shall inform the competent authorities without delay, indicating the modifications intended to the original plan. The competent authorities shall examine such alterations and confirm the validity of the permit only if they do not entail a relocation of the activities to areas where vulnerable marine ecosystems occur or are likely to occur.

Article 6 - Depth limits

The use of bottom gears at depths beyond 1 000 m of depth shall be prohibited.

Article 7 - Unforeseen encounters with vulnerable marine ecosystems

1. Where, in the course of fishing operations, a fishing vessel encounters a vulnerable marine ecosystem, it shall immediately cease fishing, or refrain from engaging in fishing in the site concerned. It shall resume operations only when it has reached an alternative site at a minimum distance of 5 nautical miles from the site of the encounter within the area foreseen in its fishing plan provided for in Article 4(1).

2. If a new encounter takes place in the alternative site referred to in paragraph 1, the vessel shall keep relocating in accordance with the rules set out in that paragraph until a site where no vulnerable marine ecosystems are found is reached.

3. The fishing vessel shall report each encounter to the competent authorities without delay, providing precise information on the nature, location, time and any other relevant circumstances of the encounter.

Article 8 - Area closures

1. On the basis of the best scientific information available on the occurrence or on the likelihood of occurrence of vulnerable marine ecosystems in the region where their fishing vessels operate, Member States shall identify areas that shall be closed to fishing with bottom gears. Member States shall implement these closures without delay in respect of their vessels and submit a report to the Commission in accordance with Article 13.

2. Without prejudice to Article 7 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2371/2002, the Commission shall examine this information and submit, where appropriate, proposals to the Council for the adoption of Community measures to protect these areas. The Commission shall also consider, where appropriate, the adoption of such measures on its own initiative.

Article 9 - Vessel monitoring system

1. Notwithstanding Article 11(1) of Commission Regulation (EC) No 2244/2003, in the event of technical failure or non-functioning of the satellite tracking device fitted on board a fishing vessel, the master of the vessel shall report its geographical situation to the flag Member State every two hours.

2. After returning from the sea trip, the vessel shall not leave the port again until the satellite tracking device is functioning to the satisfaction of the competent authorities.

Article 10 - Serious infringements

1. Failure to conform to the fishing plan provided for in Article 4(1) in circumstances other than those specified in Article 5(2) shall entail the loss of validity of the special fishing permit issued to the fishing vessel concerned. Any fishing activities carried out from the time when the vessel departed from its fishing plans shall be considered as fishing without holding a fishing permit under the terms of paragraph C, first indent, of the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1447/1999.

2. Repeated instances of non-compliance with the obligations laid down in Articles 6, 7 and 9 shall be considered as conduct that seriously infringes the Common Fisheries Policy, according to Council Regulation (EC) No 1447/1999.

Article 11 - Fishing vessels targeting deep sea stocks

Community fishing vessels referred to in Article 1(1) and which target deep sea stocks shall also be subject to the requirements laid down in Regulation (EC) No 2347/2002 of 16 December 2002.

Article 12 - Observers

1. Each Member State shall assign scientific observers to the vessels to which a special fishing permit provided for in Article 3(1) is issued. The observers shall observe the fishing activities of the vessel throughout the execution of its fishing plan provided for in Article 4(1).

2. The scientific observer shall:

7. record independently in a logbook the catch information prescribed in Article 6 of Regulation (EEC) No 2847/93;

8. record any instances of alteration of the fishing plan as referred to in Article 5(2);

9. document any instances of unforeseen encounter with vulnerable marine ecosystems referred to in Article 7, including the gathering of information that may be of use in relation to the protection of the site;

10. record depths at which gear is deployed;

11. present a report to the competent authorities of the Member State concerned within 20 days following the termination of the observation period. A copy of this report shall be sent to the Commission, within 30 days after receipt of a written request.

3. The scientific observer shall not be any of the following:

12. a relative of the master of the vessel or other officer serving on the vessel to which the observer is assigned;

13. an employee of the master of the vessel to which he is assigned;

14. an employee of the master's representative;

15. an employee of a company controlled by the master or his representative;

16. a relative of the master's representative.

Article 13 - Information

1. Member States shall communicate to the Commission, for each half calendar year within three months of the expiry of that half calendar year, a report on:

17. in addition to the requirements laid down in Article 18 of Regulation (EEC) No 2847/93, the catches made by the fishing vessels referred to in Article (1), established on the basis of the information recorded in logbooks, including full records of fishing days out of port and reports presented by the scientific observers, broken down by quarter of the year, by type of gear and by species;

18. the compliance with the fishing plans and with the requirements laid down in Articles 6, 7 and 8 by the fishing vessels referred to in Article 1(1) and the measures taken to remedy and sanction instances of non-compliance and of serious infringements referred to in Article 10;

19. their implementation of Article 8.

2. The Commission shall transmit the information contained in the report referred to in paragraph 1 to the relevant scientific bodies without delay.

Article 14 - Follow-up

The Commission shall submit to the European Parliament and to the Council a report on the implementation of this Regulation before 30 June 2010. That report shall be accompanied where necessary by proposals for amendments to this Regulation.

Article 15 - Entry into force

This Regulation shall enter into force on the seventh day following that of its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union .

This Regulation shall be binding in its entirety and directly applicable in all Member States.