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Ocean bottom fishing banned in 16,000 sq km of EU-controlled area of Atlantic

BRUSSELS — On Sept. 15, the European Commission made a historic announcement: it will prohibit bottom fishing across 16,000 square kilometers, or 6,200 square miles — an area about half the size of Belgium — in waters controlled by the European Union in the northeast Atlantic Ocean. While some fisheries representatives have criticized the decision, saying it will lead to “devastating consequences” for the industry, conservation experts say it’s a necessary step to protect ecologically significant deep-sea environments.

The new rule will bar bottom fishing in 87 sites 400 meters (1,300 feet) and deeper — known as “vulnerable marine ecosystems” under EU and international law — in the exclusive economic zones of Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal. The ban will apply to fisheries that use trawling gear, bottom-set gill nets, bottom-set longlines, and pots and traps.

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