Practical modifications to Council Regulation (EC) No. 356/2005 that set rules to mark and identify passive fishing gears were proposed. The proposed improvement of current legislation tried to address the concerns and issues raised by stakeholders.
Why this study?
The necessity for rules to mark and identify passive fishing gears such as set nets, drift nets, pots and longlines has long been recognized. Commission Regulation (EC) No 356/2005, amended by (EC) No 1805/2005, provided detailed rules for the marking and identification of passive fishing gear, taking into account previous Regulations and Conventions. However, concerns have been raised by stakeholders, and several practical difficulties with the EU legislation have been highlighted. This study was initiated to provide the Commission with technical, operational and economic information in order to address the issues raised and improve the requirements of Regulation No 356/2005, amended by (EC) No 1805/2005.
The principal objective was to carry out a review of current legislation, gear marker systems (GMS) and opinions of relevant stakeholders in order to propose practical modifications to Council Regulation (EC) No. 356/2005.
Specific goals of the project were: (1) examine EU fisheries affected by the regulation; (2) assess EU and international legislation on GMS; (3) assess current GMS and additional potential components; (4) document the opinions of relevant stakeholders in relation to the practicalities of implementing the regulation; (5) develop and test an alternative GMS; (6) assess the practicalities of implementing the proposed modifications to the Regulation; (7) examine other elements of the regulation which could be improved such as the scope and definition of passive gears; (8) examine alternative systems and new technologies which could improve gear identification systems.
A review of international legislation on gear markings was undertaken and the various regulations were compared. The current European and Norwegian regulations, which were adapted from the 1967 Convention1, are the most comprehensive sets of regulations in place globally and represent the most significant attempt to address the issues of standardization of gear marking in one specific regulation. These regulations require vessel registration details to be put on the buoy, the use of lights, differentiation of eastern and western buoys, the use of intermediary buoys, and set specifications regarding the height of the mast above the sea surface. The EU regulations make the use of radar reflectors mandatory and give detailed specifications for such radar reflectors.
Interviews were conducted (1) with fishermen from Ireland, UK, France, Spain, the Netherlands, and Norway, (2) with representatives from control and enforcement agencies in the UK and Ireland, and (3) other marine users, including the merchant shipping and marine leisure sectors. There was agreement amongst the fishermen for the need of regulations but also that the specifications of both the EU and Norwegian buoys were unduly complex and expensive (e.g., the need for radar reflectors and multiple lights was indicated as unnecessary). The representatives from control and enforcement agencies indicated strong agreement with the need for standardized legislation but stressed the limited compliance with the regulations. The yacht owners felt that the legislation was useful if perhaps a little complex but felt the use of radar reflectors and lights necessary.
Taking on board the review of legislative requirements, gear marking systems currently in use, and stakeholder opinions, a new prototype gear marking system was developed and suggested as an improvement to the current legislation. In the proposed prototype, the overall dimensions of the buoys were reduced and the requirement for radar inflectors was considered unnecessary. The number of lights needed could be reduced. The provisions for differentiating between East and West buoys were simplified by reducing the number of flags to be used, and the specifications for intermediary buoys have been adapted to take account standard practice prior to the introduction of the legislation. Most of the other components contained within the legislation such as luminous bands, flag size and mast height were recommended to be unchanged in the new regulation.
The proposed prototype was compared to the current legislation buoy during trials conducted as part of this study. These trials looked at the performance of the buoys in differing sea and weather conditions, the practical handling of the two buoys, and the effectiveness of radar reflectors. The trials demonstrated that the proposed amendments to the EU regulation buoy will not interfere with the aim of the European Commission, which is to provide safe and standardized specification passive gear marker buoys, ensuring orderly conduct of fishing operations in EU waters. The prototype buoy is approximately one third of the cost of the original regulation buoy, addressing one of the main issues raised by fishermen.
It is also recommended that serious consideration be given to amending the regulation to apply to vessels over 12 meters rather than to vessels fishing outside 12 nautical miles. The need to look at new technologies for the component parts of the buoys, such as rechargeable batteries, solar powered LED lights, and radar reflective flags was also highlighted.
Evaluation of various marker buoy techniques for the marking of passive fishing gears
Bord Iascaigh Mhara
 Convention on the Conduct of Fishing Operations in the North Atlantic, June 1967