Fishing in natural areas to be limited

The European Commission has given the go-ahead to agreements which will limit fishing operations in Natura 2000 areas in the North Sea. The restrictions in these designated areas will also apply to foreign fisheries.

A level playing field

According to Minister Bleker for Agriculture and Foreign Trade, the restrictions were essential to the implementation of the Dutch agreement on Fishing in Protected Areas (Visserij In Beschermde Gebieden, or VIBEG), concluded between the commercial fisheries sector and nature conservation organisations in December 2011. 'The European Commission has taken an important step forward. This levels the playing field for all fisheries. And it is wonderful news for nature conservation in two sensitive natural areas,' the Minister said.

VIBEG Agreement

The agreement involves two Natura 2000 areas: the North Sea Coastal Zone, from Bergen (North Holland province) to Rottum, and the Vlakte van de Raan in the southwestern delta to the Belgium border. The VIBEG agreement prohibits bottom trawling in 25% of the North Sea Coastal Zone. In 2016, both areas will see a complete ban on such practices. Shrimp fishing operations will also be limited. Measures will be taken in the Vlakte van de Raan following further research and consultation with stakeholders. The VIBEG agreement has been signed by the North Sea Foundation, the Society for the Preservation of Nature, the WWF, the Wadden Society, the Fish Product Board, VisNed, the Dutch Fishermen's Association, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation.